MANILA – Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 commissioner Eric Altamirano thanked the Games and Amusements Board (GAB) for giving his league the professional status it deserves.

In a virtual press conference on Wednesday night, the Chooks 3x3 league announced that it has just turned pro.

"I’d like to thank the Games and Amusements Board headed by Chairman Baham Mitra for allowing our sports organization, Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 to become a professional league. You know, this will provide our local players the opportunity to explore possibilities as a professional career in the 3x3," Altamirano said.

The multi-titled coach added that the latest development to the league is a testament to how this basketball variation has evolved locally and even internationally over the years.

"We all know that 3x3 is fast becoming a popular sport, not only here in the Philippines but all over the world as well," Altamirano said.

The Chooks 3x3 cagefest was founded last year for the sole purpose of compiling needed FIBA 3x3 points for the Philippines to qualify at least for the FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT).

After a full season consisting of four conferences, the Philippine hosting of the first-ever FIBA 3x3 Super Quest and the FIBA 3x3 Manila Challenger, and numerous appearances of local clubs in the international 3x3 circuit, Gilas Pilipinas 3x3 booked a spot in the OQT slated next year in Austria.

"It only shows that Filipinos can excel in this league, considering na maliliit tayo (that we are short)," Altamirano further said.

With his league now a pro, Altamirano hopes that this development will pave the way for more hardcourt heroes to carve a career in basketball.

"Just like in 5-on-5, I believe that 3x3 will be another platform for our players to showcase their talent in this sport of basketball. Yung pagiging professional league ng Chooks-to-Go 3x3 Pilipinas (Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 now being pro) will help strengthen our drive in becoming a dominant force in the 3x3 sport all over the world," he quipped.

How about MPBL?

One glaring observation from the inaugural staging of Chooks 3x3 is that most of the players also suit up in the 5-on-5 Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL).

Some MPBL teams, like reigning champions San Juan Knights, Bataan Risers, and Mindoro Tamaraws, even sent representatives to Chooks 3x3.

Even national team member Alvin Pasaol also sees action in the MPBL for Zamboanga.

Now that Chooks 3x3 is officially pro, this could create a dilemma on whether MPBL players can still join the 3x3 cagefest considering that the MPBL is not yet GAB-sanctioned.

Mitra clarified that the Chooks 3x3 players can still join the MPBL provided that they get a clearance from their mother clubs.

"Before they play for any amateur league, they need to seek permission from the league commissioner and also from us," Mitra said. "We’re here to assist them so pasabi lang sa amin (please inform us)."

Altamirano added, "I already consulted Baham about this that we only apply to become a professional league only in terms of the 3x3... We only applied to professionalize our 3x3 league, not 5-on-5."

Mitra further added that the pro licenses the Chooks 3x3 players will get are different from the ones given to Philippine Basketball Association players and Filipino players competing in the Asean Basketball League (ABL).

This means Gilas 3x3 member Joshua Munzon, who played in the ABL before, essentially got a brand new license.

However, Mitra reiterated the possible repercussions of professional athletes competing in tournaments not sanctioned by GAB like injuries or even getting involved in commotions.

"Nakakatakot eh. May mga kontrata sila sa mga managers nila, sa mga teams nila. Paano na lang yung professional career nila (This could be frightening. They have contracts with their managers and their teams. What could happen to their professional careers)?" Mitra quipped.

Calamba bubble

According to Altamirano, the second season of the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3, which will have three conferences, will tentatively begin in the third week of September and will run until February, just in time before Gilas 3x3 goes full throttle in their buildup for the FIBA 3x3 OQT.

He added that there will be 12 teams per conference.

However, unlike last season, where the legs are staged inside SM malls, the league will hold its games in a "bubble" similar to the one being imposed by the National Basketball Association due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

"We’re gonna enter the first day afternoon. Right before we enter, there’s going to be a series of testings so this probably five to seven days prior to the entry to the bubble. Magkakaroon ng PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing and mga players and then on the day itself, we’re gonna have a rapid test so that will ensure us that whoever goes in to the bubble will be safe," Altamirano bared the protocols Chooks 3x3 set amid the pandemic.

He added that an "emergency contingency plan" has been put in place for players tested positive for Covid-19.

Altamirano then bared, "We have plans of getting a doctor that is recommended to me by UP (University of the Philippines). We will be using him as our lead doctor to be able to supervise and oversee all the protocols we need to implement in the league."

The first leg, according to Altamirano, will be played on a Friday, and the players will undergo another rapid testing on Saturday to determine who will be cleared for the second leg the day after.

"[On] Sunday night right after the second leg, everybody will get out of the bubble. After that, every two weeks, we go inside the bubble. We will continue to apply the safety protocol in terms of testing before going inside the bubble," he further said.

The games will be played inside the Inspire Sports Academy within National University's Calamba campus.

"We have to find an isolated area where we can do the bubble, and what a better place to hold it than Inspire Sports Academy," Altamirano continued. "It’s a world-class campus. Kompleto na. May hotel sa loob. (It has complete amenities. There is a hotel inside). [It's a] really nice facility."

He then said that players inside the bubble are restricted from going outside until the second leg is done. (PNA)