SINGAPORE (Singapore) - The much anticipated FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup 2023 will soon be tipping off from 29 March to 2 April and it will be a mixed bag of emotions from the participating teams.
"It's a true honor to represent the Kingdom of Tonga, especially on [this] stage."
While some teams like New Celadonia are amped up for their first 3x3 Asia Cup, there are also teams like Tonga who are returning to play in the competition… and are as hyped as ever to be a part of the playing field once again.
"It's a great feeling to come back to the 3x3 Asia Cup, we had a great time last time," said Marcus Alipate.
The 30-year-old was a key part of the team that played in 2022, coming close to a win over Sri Lanka and battling with eventual third-place team China. Aside from enjoying the opportunity to return as a part of the competition, Alipate is also looking forward to heading back to Singapore, where the competition is being held for a second straight year.
"The country of Singapore is amazing and being able to come back to compete again here is truly special. We went back and worked on our game and I'm looking forward to this year to compete against other countries!"
Tonga will be facing some stiff competition in the Qualifying Draw B Round. They start things off by facing fellow Oceania team New Zealand on 29 March, before going up against Turkmenistan and Korea on 30 March.
While the games will be intense and the focus of Tonga and Alipate will be on putting their best efforts on display, they know from experience that there is always a little bit more to have fun with in these 3x3 competitions.
"The intrigue [of playing in a competition like this] would be the opportunity to represent the Kingdom of Tonga with these other amazing countries. It's a different game but equally challenging and rewarding. Last 3x3 Asia Cup, the way the tournament is ran to the crowds, music and playing right on the water was one of the most interesting experiences I've had in my life playing basketball."
That's a solid statement coming from a player like Alipate who has played a lot of basketball in his life. The 1.86M (6'1") guard has enjoyed having an exceptional career throughout high school and college in Minnesota as well as a professional career in New Zealand and Australia. More importantly, he has been an illustrious player for the Tonga national team and he takes pride every time he puts on that national team jersey.
"It's a true honor to represent the Kingdom of Tonga, especially on [this] stage," said Alipate, who has helped the national team to historic performances. "I feel blessed for the opportunity to showcase our talent and culture with the best in the world. We are making history as we continue to grow and I am honored to be part of this journey!"
The keyword right there is "journey". And it's a good sign that Alipate acknowledges that it's a journey. The nation of Tonga has a population of just over 100,000 which means they don't have as big of a talent pool. In the game of 3x3, however, it doesn't take as many players to build a solid core and get things going.
"I see this as a game we can be great at," expressed Alipate. "There are less barriers of entry in the sense that you really only need one hoop and 6 players to play a game. The games are short but anything can happen which is a good thing for countries like ours that are developing the game of basketball. This also gives another pathway for players, teams, and coaches to grow the game across the Pacific Islands."
It has defiantly been a journey for Tonga and Alipate and that journey will continue in Singapore for the FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup 2023. They will just keep on enjoying that ride and continue to do the best they can.