By Waylon Galvez
The Philippine esports basketball team kicks off its campaign in the inaugural exhibition of the FIBA Esports Open 2020 against Indonesia Friday in Riga, Latvia.
Owners of four straight NBA2K Asia Pacific titles, the Filipinos collide with the Indonesians in what promises to be an interesting battle between the two best countries in the region’s gaming scene.
“Sobrang excited kami to represent the country,” said Philippe “Izzo” Alcaraz, a member of the 7-man national team. “This is a new thing for us because it’s FIBA – it’s on a global scale.”
“Ang pressure medyo mabigat, but as NBA2k Asia Pacific champion I feel honored and confident in leading this talented team, and against Indonesia, we’ll try our best to showcase Filipino gamers competence.”
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Aside from Alcaraz, other members of the esports team are Rocky “Rak” Braña, Custer “Aguila” Galas, Clark Banzon, Al “Alt” Timajo, Aljon “Shintarou” Cruzin and Rial Polog Jr.
Prior to this tournament, the Filipinos already clashed against Indonesia in a few tuneup games, and national team coach Nite Alparas said they still have to improve on defense.
“Since Day 1 nag-focus na kami sa defense, gumagawa kami iba-ibang defensive schemes,” said Alparas, whose seven players own an almost perfect rating of 99 percent as gamers.
The national team plays Indonesia in a best-of-five series, divided to three days, twice Friday, two games Saturday and one match on Sunday to rule the Southeast Asian zone.
Since this event is an exhibition for FIBA, which hopes to use esports via NBA2K to further grow the sport globally, no team will be proclaimed as champion even if 17 teams are in the tournament.
Aside from the Philippines and Indonesia, also in the event are Italy, Australia, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Cyprus, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, New Zealand, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Switzerland and Ukraine.
Each team consists of seven players with five to play. Games will be played remotely on NBA 2k using the Pro-Am mode and allowing full customization of player avatars, uniforms and arena designs.
The games will be livestreamed on FIBA’s Facebook, Twitch and YouTube channels with live commentary.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio said the FIBA event is perfect timing since people are looking for entertainment as most of the events have either been postponed or cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic.
“People are looking for events, and using technology to go back to competition is a very good idea (by FIBA),” said Panlilio. “Let’s cheer, let’s support the national team in their campaign.”
READ MORE: SBP: 7-man PH team ready for FIBA Esports Open