3x3 star Stojacic rejuvenated after 'life-changing' move to China

SHANGHAI (China) – At the worst possible moment, on 3x3’s grand stage, Stefan Stojacic played his self-admitted "worst" game of last year’s FIBA 3x3 World Tour.

In the quarter-finals of the Bloomage Beijing Final, the Liman (SRB) superstar scored just two points and missed all six of his shots beyond the arc as the No.1 seed were stunned by Riga 16-13.

Stojacic, known by the nickname 'Mr Robot', got rusty and just could not produce his trademark energetic game in a tough end to a brilliant season where he had dueled with Novi Sad superstar Dusan Bulut for the crown of 3x3’s best player.

It was a bitter disappointment for the Serbs who had been spectacular during the World Tour, highlighted by victories in Utsunomiya, Chengdu and Penang. Stojacic, especially, stewed over the frustration.

"It was hard to get over," Stojacic says. "It was my worst game last season. All of the team played bad. We were expecting to win but 3x3 is an unpredictable game where anything can happen."

“You see lots of 3x3 being played in the streets in China, just like in Serbia.”- Stefan Stojacic

On the brink of a new World Tour season, the 30-year-old has moved on from the heartbreak in Beijing... by staying in China. Stojacic along with teammates Aleksandar Ratkov, Mihailo Vasic, Stefan Kojic and Maksim Kovacevic are currently in Shanghai, where they will be based for at least the next couple of months.

In a collaboration with the Chinese Basketball National Federation, world No.1 Liman have been training with Chinese teams in a relationship that is hoped to foster the growth of 3x3 in the world’s most populous country.

"China is rising in this sport and I think it is crucial to grow 3x3 there because it is such a big market," Stojacic, the No.2 ranked player in the world, says. "Obviously the playing culture is basketball but you see lots of 3x3 being played in the streets just like in Serbia."

Moving to China has been a "life-changing" move for Stojacic and his teammates but one that has so far brought them closer together. "We are always going out together and we are having a great time on-and-off the court," he says.

"It’s become a family. We wanted to be 100 per cent professional and that’s why we came to China."

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With the possibility of being based in China until the Olympics, Stojacic has started the tough task of trying to learn Mandarin. "I have already learned some phrases but I always need time to think before I talk," he laughs.

"It’s a hard language but we might be based here for the next 18 months. I think I will be able to converse by the end of that."

It’s a big year ahead for a rejuvenated Stojacic on-and-off the court with his wife pregnant and due to give birth in July. Life is a whirlwind for the former robotics engineer but he’s excited about the challenges ahead.

The frustration of Beijing is well in the distance, so don’t expect Liman to be obsessed by revenge like Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins.

"Team are getting better each year as 3x3 gets more popular," Stojacic says. "We don’t feel the pressure and don’t need to think of last year.

"We are preparing well, there is a good spirit building and we just want to enjoy ourselves."

Liman's World Tour season starts with the 1st Masters of the season in Doha, Qatar on April 18-19.

The team is guaranteed to compete in 4 Masters this season thanks to their position as #1 team in the FIBA 3x3 team ranking at the beginning of the season. Besides Doha, they will also play in Debrecen, Lausanne and Prague.