One question for every team at FIBA 3x3 World Tour Manila Masters 2022
25 May 2022
MANILA (Philippines) - After an incredible Utsunomiya Opener, there is no time to catch a breath with the Manila Masters on May 28-29 set to be even crazier as the FIBA 3x3 World Tour returns to hoops crazy Philippines.
To get hyped like the Filipino fans in the bleachers, let's ask a burning question for all the teams.
Ub Huishan NE
Can Ub start moving ahead of the pack?
After the perfect start in Utsunomiya, Ub answered our question from last time. They indeed cemented the No.1 ranking and deserve to be rated the best team on the World Tour.
But these spectacular Serbs will be thinking of higher goals. They want to be the undisputed best - a space their compatriots Novi Sad once held for years.
Maybe it's impossible to have that status these days given 3x3's wealth of talent but Ub are looking mighty impressive.
Dejan Majstorovic and Strahinja Stojacic are probably the best duo right now but it's not a two-man show with Marko Brankovic lights out in Utsunomiya.
If Ub can claim another W in Manila then maybe they really can strive for 3x3 total domination.
Can Antwerp win their first Masters on the World Tour?
Ok, sorry, but this is cut and pasted from last time around. It's the elephant in the room when discussing Antwerp, who have risen so quickly to become a top 3x3 team but are yet to win a Masters.
For the fifth time from seven Masters, the Belgians fell in the semis in Utsunomiya. It's starting to feel like a curse, as if someone has put a voodoo on them.
But it's not doom and gloom just yet. We have to cut them some slack because they played without a sub in Utsunomiya.
They've fortunately regained the services of Bryan De Valck (though it did not translate to better results at the Ulaanbaatar Challenger where they finished just 5th), so there won't be any excuses for them in Manila.
It's time Antwerp overcomes their semi final struggles.
Can they bounce back after the heartbreak in Utsunomiya?
It was an OT classic worthy of a final when Serb compatriots Ub and Liman met in the quarter-final in Utsunomiya. But Dejan Majstorovic went all samurai mode and crushed Liman's soul with a Maurice Lacroix buzzer beater for the ages.
Think that devastation will be tough to rebound from? Think again. These dudes are legendary warriors and have rebounded from some of the toughest losses imaginable.
Liman will be even more determined in Manila. Opponents beware.
Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy
Will Steve Sir be the difference maker?
The Mongolians mean business in 2022. They don't just want to be known as 3x3's greatest success story. These dudes want to start collecting titles.
To kick-start this plan, they've gone abroad for the first time and hired Canadian legend Steve Sir. You know his famous catchcry - yessirrr! Arguably the GOAT two-point shooter is in a new role as player-coach for the Mongolians and he has still got it.
Sir has not lost the shooter's touch and blended into the team seamlessly.
He has formed an inside-outside combo with Mongolia's No.1 player Delgernyam Davaasambuu to add a potent weapon that Ulaanbaatar was missing previously.
It means that Steve Sir might just give the Mongolians the nudge they need for glory.
Haven't heard of Gan-Erdene Gantsolmon? You will by the end of the Manila Masters because this dude is like the 3x3 equivalent of Manny Pacquiao - he's short but packs the mightiest punch.
The 22-year-old absolutely lit up the Super Quests in Manila and Ulaanbaatar with an absolutely insane 97 points combined. At just 6ft (1.84m), he can still score from anywhere.
He led the Mongolians to the W in Ulaanbaatar but even when he's not winning this dude is always flashing the biggest smile that really should be a meme. Gantsolomon plays with so much joy but he's a killer on the half court.
Warsaw are the No.6 seed but they might just be the fancied dark horse pick to go all the way in Manila.
After becoming full-time pros, having made the Tokyo Olympics and winning bronze at the FIBA 3x3 Europe Cup 2021, Warsaw have spent their time wisely with the hard work paying off during a strong start to the pro circuit this season.
And they might just have the dude who could seriously lit up this World Tour. You've seen him dominate before - at the Europe Cup - but Przemyslaw Zamojski is ready to tear apart the World Tour.
He gets his chance in Manila, as the Poles aim to steal the show.
Sansar MMC Energy
Is Ariunbold ready to explode on the World Tour?
Anand Ariunbold has long been hyped and seen as the guy to one day be Mongolia's talisman. His time might be now after a scoring binge on the pro circuit so far, where he is averaging close to 10ppg.
The 25-year-old has not played on the World Tour since 2019 but he's an even meaner and nastier version than back then. And he's far more consistent. The 6ft. 5in (1.96m) walking bucket is ready to prove he belongs in the elite category on the World Tour.
Can Enkhsaikhan Bayarsaikhan shoulder the scoring burden?
During their impressive semi-final run at the Ulaanbaatar Super Quest, Zavkhan were on a roll through dynamic duo Enkhsaikhan Bayarsaikhan and Tserenbaatar Enkhtaivan, who combined for 61 points.
But Enkhtaivan won't be in Manila meaning Zavkhan's burden rests on 22-year-old Bayarsaikhan who might be only just a little bit taller than Tom Cruise but can run and jump higher than the action star.
They'll need him to fire if Zavkhan are going to make a deep run.
Can they continue their love affair with Manila?
Cebu ended an eight-year Filipino drought on the pro circuit after winning the Super Quest in Manila. Can they do it again and go all the way in their happy hunting ground?
It's going to be tough but they have confidence, in-form star players Mark Tallo, the No.1 ranked player in the Philippines, and Mike Harry, and a nasty streak on D that should make them a nightmare for opponents.
Cebu will dare to dream.
Can Popovic find his range?
If the Japanese are going to get out of qualifying, they need their star Lazar Popovic firing. He's been a menace so far this pro circuit from the inside but struggled badly with just 5 of 29 from 2 at the Ulaanbaatar Challanger and Asia Pacific Super Quest.
The 27-year-old needs to discover the shooter's touch if Yokohama are to make some noise in Manila.
Can Birdman turn back the clock?
Slovenian 3x3 legend Blaz Cresnar is back on the World Tour for the first time since 2019 but in new colors. The towering 7ft. 1in (2.16m) patrolled the rim for years and he hopes to once again dominate the paint and give the Indians an inside force.
If he can work well alongside the 'Bearded King' Bikramjit Gill - and no doubt well set up by ball wizard Inderbir Gill - then Gurugram 3BL might be able to cause some upsets.
Can Manila be the host with the most?
Manila will have one huge advantage - their crazy passionate fans who might just get them over the line in games.
It wasn't quite enough in the Super Quest in Manila but they've been in good form with semi-final finishes there and in Ulaanbaatar.
With stars Henry Iloka and Chico Lanete ballin', they should be getting the fans hollering like it's karaoke night.
Can the Kiwis punch above their weight?
New Zealand are in a familiar position. Across many sports, they are usually written off and overlooked but find a way to surprise and shock the world.
Boasting players aged 27 and under, with several built like they played for the mighty All Blacks in rugby (see Zach Easthope below), don't be surprised if New Zealand gets out of qualifying.
Can Melbourne put Australia on the World Tour map?
Australia is a hoops power and have done well in 3x3 in international competitions. In 2019, the trio of Greg Hire, Andrew Steel and Tom Wright won the FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup together.
Can they build on their chemistry to finally make a statement on the World Tour 3 years later?