THE Manila Chooks TM will be parading an all-Filipino squad in the 2021 FIBA 3x3 World Tour Abu Dhabi Masters at the Kasr Al Amwaj after Cameroonian big man Mike Nzeusseu was ruled out of the competition due to an injured hand.
Nzeusseu suffered a minor left-hand fracture last October 20 during Manila’s semis game against Cebu in the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 Invitational. Taking his place on the team is veteran forward Mark Yee, who is joining Cebuanos Macmac Tallo, Zach Huang and Chico Lañete.
“Of course, Mike is a big loss for our team, but it’s the situation dealt to us,” said Ayo. “But Mark is ready since he has been training with us along with Dennis (Santos), Jayvee (Marcelino) and (Ralph) Tansingco.
“So today, we gave one last run-through of our system since this is the first time Mac, Chico, Zach and Mark will be playing together,” he continued.
“I’m really disappointed since I had been really looking forward to this moment for two years now. During the pandemic, what I was doing was picturing me playing one day and I was picturing playing for Chooks-to-Go one day,” said Nzeusseu. “I tried, but I could not give my 100 percent if I played with this injury.”
Back in the Doha Masters last March, Tallo, Lanete, Huang and Santos went 0-2 in the qualifying draw. Six months later, Tallo, Huang, Santos and Yee finished in 11th place in the Montreal Masters.
This time around, Manila Chooks will face world no. 4 Liman of Serbia and no. 5 Amsterdam Talent&Pro of the Netherlands in Pool D. The top two teams in the group will advance to the knockout playoffs in the maximum level tournament.
Despite the predicament that Manila Chooks is in, Ayo and the team remain focused on the goal of finally making it to the knockout stage.
“Of course, the goal is still to make the playoffs,” said Ayo. “If we stick to the system, we can upset Liman or Amsterdam.” (JNP)