LJUBLJANA (3x3) - After a frustrating season that saw them lose the FIBA 3x3 World Tour title they had won in Istanbul on 4-5 October 2013, Team Ljubljana (formerly known as Brezovica) announced on 26 January that they will not continue playing together.
The team featuring 2.17m big man Blaz 'Birdman' Cresnar, former EuroBasket participant Ales Kunc, Jasmin Hercegovac and Rok Smaka had won nearly everything in 2013. They earned back-to-back trophies at the FIBA 3x3 World Tour and the FIBA 3x3 All Stars and their domination on the 3x3 world scene seemed likely to last for a number of years.
However, when 2014 rolled around, the giants seemed to have feet of clay and after struggling to qualify to the World Tour, the team collapsed in a major upset against Team Amsterdam in the quarter-finals of the Lausanne Masters. The reigning champs did not even make it to the World Tour Final where they would have defended their title.
Birdman, the team's talismanic player, recalls: "It was much more difficult to play in 2014 because we were the defending champs and all the teams wanted to beat us."
I think there was not the same chemistry on the team like in the first year. - Birdman
Birdman was the number one 3x3 player in the world between December 2013 and June 2014, before Novi Sad team-mates Dusan Domovic Bulut and then Dejan Majstorovic took over.
The 28-year-old wants his title back.
"I want to be on top of the world again so I think the team needed changes," he said.
He and team-mate Rok Smaka contacted some players for the upcoming 3x3 season and one name is likely to catch the attention.
"I talked with my former team-mate (Ondrej) Starosta last week and he was happy when I asked him if he would play with us," Birdman explained.
The former Czech basketball international stands 2.16m and would form a pretty intimidating pair with the 2.17m Birdman.
Meanwhile, the other two members of the 2013 winning campaign will also come back with great ambitions.
Hence, former captain Ales Kunc explains he already has his team ready.
"I want to go back to the top and be on the best team in the world. I know this is realistic," said the 2.07m Slovenian.
I want to win the World Tour and the All Stars again. - Kunc
"For sure it is tough to replace Birdman who was the catalyst of our winning season with his blocks and his outside shots but I know what is needed to win and I recruited two versatile players who can shoot from long range, make their free throws and rebound."
Meanwhile, 29-year-old big man Tomo Cajic and 25-year-old do-it-all player Sinisa Bilic (both Slovenian) will join Kunc and the sharpshooting Jasmin Hercegovac in their attempt to regain 3x3 supremacy.
The FIBA 3x3 World Tour may have lost one of its former winners but odds are it gained another two great teams.