Manila Chooks TM aim to 'shock the world' at 3x3 Doha Masters
MANILA (Philippines) - Manila Chooks TM may have a fresh collection of players, but don't underestimate the passion and intangibles of this "underdog" 3x3 team from hoops-crazy Philippines.
Comprising Mark Tallo, Dennis Santos, Zach Huang and Chico Lanete, the new-look Manila face a tough ask in the loaded Doha Masters on March 26-27 with the season opener headlined by powerhouses Riga, Liman and Novi Sad.
It's a different Manila Chooks TM side compared to last year's Doha Masters squad, which featured emerging star Joshua Munzon and Alvin Pasaol.
Their task has been made harder with coronavirus restrictions in the Philippines making it difficult for them to train together. Despite these hurdles, this typically energetic Filipino team might have a secret weapon to upset 3x3's best.
"For Mac, Dennis, and Zach, they have already been playing together for so long, so chemistry won't be a problem," said veteran Lanete, who will be tasked with being the team's vocal leader.
Management resisted throwing together a star-studded line-up and, instead, formed a group of players complementing each other. They do lack size but - in typical entertaining Filipino fashion - are set to make up for that with quickness and energy.
"Since we lack size since our big men have been affected by the quarantine measures here, we will be utilizing our speed and shooting," Lanete said.
Dazzling Doha revives magnificent memories for Filipinos with Balanga Chooks and Pasig Chooks lighting up the Doha Masters two years ago with quarter-final finishes.
While Manila don't want to be burdened with comparisons, having to already deal with high expectations from their hoops-mad compatriots, Lanete said the team would take a specific mentality to Qatar.
"We are heading into Doha with an underdog mindset," he said. "Our goal is to just improve day by day, game by game.
"Manila Chooks TM are hoping to shock the world this time around."
Having switched to 3x3 last year, the 1.82m (6ft) Lanete said he had found the 21-point game "tougher" than basketball.
"It's definitely a different game but it has re-energized my competitive spirit," he said.
"I have represented the country before but not on this big of a stage. I just feel blessed that at this stage of my career, I can guide the next generation and, as well as, still play for the country."
Team manager Mel Macasaquit said 3x3 was "very popular" in the Philippines and there would be great interest in Manila's performance in Doha.
"Of course there's pressure to deliver but we are hoping that the fans understand that this is just the first chapter for this team," he said.
"Whatever the result may be, we will use that to improve our program. We know we will be competitive against the top teams in the world.
"We move forward with a new set of players looking to make the country proud in their own way."