Cecilia Toth, FIBA 3x3 Basketball
FIBA 3x3 referee Cecilia Toth after day one of the FIBA 3x3 Manila Masters on May 20, 2023. Karl Batungbacal


  • The 2023 FIBA 3x3 World Tour had its second leg with the Manila Masters
  • Referee Cecilia Toth looked back on her first-ever Manila experience fondly
  • Toth also pointed out how different the game has changed in just five years

FIBA 3x3 World Tour made its return to the shores of the Philippines this past weekend with the 2023 edition of the Manila Masters as the second took place at the Glorietta Activity Center in Makati City.

Despite their hometown team of Manila Chooks being ousted on day one due to losses at the hands of Japan's Utsunomiya BREX EXE and Ub Huishan NE of Serbia, Filipinos came out in droves to see the world's best 3x3 cagers compete at the highest levels.

The International Business Times caught up with referee Cecilia Toth following the first day of action on Saturday, May 20, and the Hungarian had nothing but love for the fans in her first-ever visit to Manila.

"It's amazing. This is my first time in Manila, but I [already] heard a lot about the Philippines crowd. Last year, I was lucky enough to officiate in Cebu and it was crazy. I can tell you; Manila is a step up. The crowd and atmosphere are amazing. I can tell the people love basketball here," Toth said.

"Filipinos are excellent. The people are extremely polite, everybody's smiling, so I can only talk about high remarks for the Filipinos. It's a pleasure to be here, I can't wait to come back."

Toth made history as the first-ever female referee to officiate the men's final of the FIBA 3x3 Europe Cup in 2019, only a year after she decided to give up being a player for the Hungarian 3x3 Women's Team—whom she represented in the 2014 and 2016 3x3 World Cups—to become a full-time court official.

As a former player, Toth knows the ins and outs of 3x3 basketball. While being a referee is a pressure-filled job, she leans in on that experience on the court to help her make the right calls.

"Well, I can tell that being a player in the past is working to my advantage because I know the tricks. Obviously, it's always hard to make the right call, but I have some feeling for the game and that's a big advantage," she mentioned.

The biggest challenge that any referee has to face, whether in traditional 5-on-5 basketball or under 3-on-3 rules, is how the players react to a call being made or missed by them.

Being the lone woman on the court during the Manila Masters, Toth was fully aware that her being of the opposite sex gave her a bit of leeway among the male players, noting that "with a smile, I can get away with a couple of things."

"The male referees cannot do that, unfortunately, but it's always smart to use your charm on the court. Being a female on the court, when you have a serious face on the guys are like 'now she's pissed' and 'we don't want to bother her anymore'. It's not that hard. I really, really enjoy it," she explained with a smile.

Five years since she traded her playing jersey, Toth has seen a lot of changes to the 3x3 scene.

"Back then, we called 3x3 [basketball] a little bit of a cage fight because there was too much contact and it was very aggressive. I can tell that now we cleaned the game more–that means we are giving more room for the spectacular players to do the crossovers and their step-backs," Toth pointed out.

"They have more room to show themselves on the highlights. So, I think, 3x3 itself is growing really fast, just like the crowds and spectators and the players are also. It's just getting better and better."

The Manila Masters would go on to be won by Utsunomiya Opener victors Ub Huishan NE of Serbia behind tournament phenom and Manila Masters MVP Stahinja Stojacic's six points. Meanwhile, the sweet-shooting Marko Brankovic added eight of his own to down China's Futian, 21-17, in the finals.

Ub Huishan NE, FIBA 3x3 Manila Masters
Ub Huishan NE of Serbia celebrate their victory against Futian of China to win the Manila Masters leg of the FIBA 3x3 World Tour on May 21, 2023. FIBA 3x3 World Tour