PROLIFIC wingman Alvin Pasaol, big man Leonard Santillan, and Fil-Am forward Joshua Munzon are turning pro— not in the PBA, but in 3×3 play.
This after the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3’s bid to be recognized as a pro league was approved by the Games and Amusements Board.
“We’d like to announce that in the board meeting of the Games and Amusement Board yesterday (last Tuesday), we have accepted the interest of Chooks-to-Go 3×3 to turn professional,” said GAB chairman Abraham Mitra in a special announcement streamed via Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas’ Facebook page last Wednesday night.
Pasaol and Santillan were former standouts of University of the East and La Salle in the UAAP, respectively, while the 6-foot-4 Munzon was AMA Senior High’s first pick overall in the 2019 PBA D-League draft.
The trio were projected to be tabbed early in the PBA draft last December, but they opted to focus on their stints in the 3×3 league.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction in growing the game in the Philippines. It’s pretty cool, from when we started the first 3×3 league in the Philippines to know that we’re turning pro,” said Munzon, the No. 1 3×3 player in the Philippines.
Added the 6-foot-3 and second-ranked Pasaol: “Sobrang saya kasi part ako ng pro team natin. Overwhelming ito para sa akin.”
The 6-foot-5 Santillan said he is raring to show his wares and will encourage others to suit up in the first-ever 3×3 league founded by Bounty Agro Ventures, Inc. president Ronald Mascarinas and was established early last year with the goal of helping the country earn enough FIBA 3×3 points qualify for the Olympics.
“Masaya ako at sobrang excited. I’ll try my best to encourage the people to play 3×3,” said Santillan.
Commissioner Eric Altamirano was understandably elated as the 3×3 league gained pro status.
“I’d like to thank the Games and Amusement Board, headed by chairman Baham Mitra, for allowing our sports organization, Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3, to become a professional league,” said Altamirano.
“I really believe that we Filipinos have a very strong chance of excelling in this sport. We all know what happened last year. For the first time, we were able to qualify for the Olympic qualifiers. 16 lang naman iyong nag-qualify and we were one of them. It only shows that Filipinos can excel in this, considering na maliliit tayo. I don’t think height really matters when it comes to 3×3.”
Munzon and Pasaol are members of the Gilas Pilipinas men’s 3×3 team along with the PBA’s CJ Perez of Terra Firma and Mo Tautuaa of San Miguel Beer set to do battle in the 2020 FIBA 3×3 Olympic Qualifying tournament in Graz, Austria in May 2021.
Altamirano also said the new league will give aspiring 3×3 cagers a chance to prove their worth.
“This will provide our local players the opportunity to explore possibilities as a professional career in the 3×3 league. Gusto namin maging something aspirational for young 3×3 players,” explained Altamirano.
“Siguro iisipin ng iba, hindi ako puwede sa five-on-five, so there’s another platform that they can really aspire to become a basketball player. And by having a pro league sa 3×3, then there’s something na mayroon pala akong pupuntahan if I start playing the 3×3 at an early age.”
Other former PBA players who are playing in Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 League are guards Karl Dehesa, Gab Banal, and Jaypee Belencion.