Antwerp aim to again take down Liman in Day 1 blockbuster at 3x3 Debrecen Masters
DEBRECEN (Hungary) - In-form Antwerp (BEL) will be seeking to continue their winning ways over world No.1 Liman (SRB) when the teams meet again in an opening day blockbuster of the FIBA 3x3 World Tour Debrecen Masters on August 28-29, 2021.
The Belgians underlined their status as a rising World Tour power with a comfortable 20-14 victory over Liman at the recent Lausanne Masters en route to a semi-final finish.
They will renew this emerging rivalry in the third Masters of the season with Liman and No.8 seed Antwerp drawn in Pool A in Debrecen. Liman have the same line-up from their semi-run in Lausanne led by Stefan Kojic, who starred with a team-high 31 points from 4 games.
But Antwerp won't be intimidated as they boast new superstar Thibaut Vervoort aka 'Must See TV' who lived up to his nickname with a brilliant 28 points from 4 games in Lausanne.
They, however, won't have Rafael Bogaerts - who was part of Belgium's fourth-placed showing at the Tokyo Olympics - and he has been replaced by Bryan De Valck.
It won't be a two-horse race with the always hyped Lausanne Sport (SUI) completing Pool A, which is quite clearly the 'Group of Death'. The 9th seed struggled at home with losses against Riga and Graz and lose the services of Badara Top, who has been replaced by Danilo Mijatovic - a big man with soft hands who transferred from Vrbas (SRB) this summer.
No.2 seed Riga (LAT) headline Pool B and will be aiming to bounce back after a shock quarter-final exit in Lausanne, where they lost to eventual champs San Juan (PUR) in an instant classic.
But they have suffered a major blow with superstar Karlis Lasmanis not playing in Debrecen having lit up Lausanne with a tournament high 8.3ppg.
It means Nauris Miezis and Agnis Cavars are the only Olympic Gold medalists remaining in the line-up with sharpshooter Edgars Krumins still on the sidelines.
Even without 'Batman', Riga should fancy their chances against a shorthanded Novi Sad (SRB) missing Dusan Bulut and big fella Tamas Ivosev.
The four-time World Tour Final champs were unable to make it out of the pool stage in Lausanne and could face a similar fate in Debrecen with Pool B also boasting No.10 seed Graz (AUT), who are fresh off making the quarter-finals.
No.3 seed Sakiai Gulbele (LTU) top Pool C and return to the Masters having played in Doha, where they exited on Day 1. But the Montreal Masters 2019 champs will be confident of a return to form with Marijus Uzupis and Aurelijus Pukelis always a devastating one-two punch.
But the Lithuanians face a tough task early against Amsterdam Talent&Pro (NED) who are back on the Masters stage for the first time since their drought breaking triumph in Doha in March.
The No.6 seed have impressive firepower led by star recruit Maksim Kovacevic, who enjoyed a fairy-tale debut for his new team in Doha. They also have Netherlands' Olympians Dimeo van der Horst and Arvin Slagter who will be keen for silverware after the Dutchmen returned from Tokyo empty-handed.
The third team in Pool C will come from qualifying with Warsaw (POL) perhaps favored boasting 3x3 legend Michael Hicks aka 'Money in the Bank' but Emona (SLO) and Paris Tchaff (FRA) will also be confident of making the main draw.
Pool D features 4th seed Ub (SRB) who are coming off an impressive runners-up finish in Lausanne fueled by the hot hand of Dejan Majstorovic aka the 'Maestro'. They welcome back former Novi Sad star Marko Savic as they aim to go one better than in Switzerland.
They face the always competitive Piran (SLO) who boast 3x3 legend Simon Finzgar although his partner-in-crime Gaspar Ovnik will not be in the line-up.
12th seed Debrecen (HUN) round out Pool D and will be aiming to provide cheers for local fans. For inspiration, they can look back at the incredible events in Lausanne where 12th seed San Juan shocked the world.
Expect the unexpected in Debrecen in what should be another incredible Masters event.