MANILA, Philippines -- Zamboanga City may be the prohibitive favorite in the upcoming Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 President's Cup, but league commissioner Eric Altamirano foresees upsets and surprises in the five-leg tournament.
The competition starts on Wednesday, with all five legs to be held at the Inspire Academy in Calamba, Laguna, where Chooks 3x3 set up its own "bubble."
In an appearance on the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday morning, Altamirano expressed his excitement for the league to get started, especially after a one-day preseason tilt.
"Maganda rin talaga 'yung nagkaroon kami ng preseason kahapon kasi we were able to see kung ano pa ang dapat naming ayusin," he said. "It was a good exercise for everybody. Hindi lang mga players, pati mga officials, mga referees. Napansin ko na they've been rusty also."
The preseason gave the organizers a chance to work out minor issues, including some technical difficulties, according to Altamirano. It also gave the teams the opportunity to size each other up ahead of the actual games.
Zamboanga City lived up to its status as favorites, as the team of Alvin Pasaol, Troy Rike, Santi Santillan, and Joshua Munzon emerged as winners after beating Bacolod-Master Sardines, 21-17, in the finals. However, they also suffered a shock loss to Bicol in the qualifiers -- and Altamirano believes it will be just the first of other potential upsets in the bubble.
"It's actually a good development for the national team kasi nacha-challenge sila, and it was evident yesterday sa preseason," said Altamirano. "Yeah, nanalo sila ng preseason, pero makikita mo na na-challenge sila ng ibang teams."
"So I think I expect these coming legs to be very, very competitive and unpredictable," he added.
The format of the conference adds to the unpredictability of the competition. The 12 teams in the bubble will play one leg every other day, all of which leads up to the Grand Finals on October 30, where P1 million is at stake.
Altamirano said that the team who can play at a consistently high level throughout the conference will have a better chance of winning it all in th eend.
"Ang labanan kasi sa 3x3, hindi siya sprint eh. It's a marathon," he explained.
"Again, I see some surprises. Meron diyang mga teams na will really step up and pull some surprises dito sa ating conference," he added.
Aside from Bicol and Bacolod, the Juan Gomez de Liano-bannered Nueva Ecija squad also figures to give Zamboanga City a run for their money.
They made it to the semifinals of the preseason before losing to Zamboanga, 21-14.
Altamirano said the surprises won't be confined on the court. They also have plans on how to make the competition more entertaining, especially as fans are not allowed at the Inspire Academy to watch the games in person.
"Meron kaming mga surprises na papakita tomorrow," said the commissioner. "It's something new, something that our viewers will really appreciate. Hindi lang basketball, but there's a part there na very entertaining."