Confident Antwerp aim to continue red-hot form at FIBA 3x3 Pristina Challenger 2022
PRISTINA (Kosovo) - Powerhouse Antwerp (BEL) are looking for a second consecutive title on the FIBA 3x3 pro circuit at the Pristina Challenger on July 16-17.
In a tough field of 14, the in-form Belgians shape as the team to beat but competition will be fierce with two tickets up for grabs at the Debrecen Masters, which is the fifth stop in this season's World Tour.
No.1 seed Antwerp just have to be mentioned first having claimed the recent Bordeaux Challenger in a confidence boost for the Belgians.
They memorably claimed their first title of the season with a massive 21-8 victory over Princeton (USA) in a major statement.
Thibaut Vervoort aka 'Must See TV' was once again essential viewing but the biggest positive for Antwerp was the breakout performance of 23-year-old Caspar Augustijnen, who took home the MVP.
The 6ft. 8in (2.04m) dynamo adds another scary dimension to Antwerp's well-oiled machine with Augustijnen a two-headed monster who loves stuffing the rim when he's not having a personal block party.
Armed with their new explosive toy, Antwerp look tough to beat but they won't have it all their own way.
No.2 seed Amsterdam (NED) are always a contender and desperately keen to win their first title of the season. They finished fourth at the Utsunomiya Opener and runner-up at the Ultra Novi Sad Challenger which underlines they aren't far off.
The Dutch Masters have a strong line-up in Pristina led by Dimeo van der Horst, who has seemingly taken his game to a new level with insane bucket getting highlighted by being joint top scorer in Novi Sad.
But he's not a one-man show and forms a deadly one-two punch with Maksim Kovacevic, who can heat up Pristina in seconds if he's feeling it.
After the top two seeds, it's an open field with a lot of teams believing they can go all the way.
No.3 seed Jeddah (KSA) have the talent but their new-look team has taken a while to get going. The signs were positive at last week's ING Hamburg Challenger, where Jeddah beat Dusseldorf LFDY (GER) - who are in Pristina too and just fell short to eventual champs Liman (SRB) in the quarters.
Lethal Lithuanian Darius Tarvydas hasn't quite found his range for his new team but if he gets the radar right then Jeddah might just click into gear.
No.4 seed Vienna (AUT) appear a threat after 3x3 legend Stefan Stojacic defied the odds and returned from a serious knee injury with a lights out performance in Novi Sad.
If one of 3x3's bests players can once again perform superhero deeds then Stojacic might lead Vienna to glory and if that eventuates then he really should start his own Marvel franchise because this Serb is indestructible.
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There are three Mongolian teams in the draw and all have serious star talent.
Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy (MGL) have three players who were part of Mongolia's quarter-final run at the FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup 2022 with Delgernyam Davaasambuu up to his usual tricks. Add in Canadian 3x3 legend Steve Sir and this looks like a championship calibre team.
The other Mongolian teams can't be discounted because they each have a young superstar capable of crazy things on the half-court.
Sansar MMC Energy (MGL) have walking bucket Anand Ariunbold, who was electric at the Asia Cup, while Zaisan MMC Energy (MGL) boast Gan-Erdene Gantsolmon who was toying with defenders earlier this season.
Want a couple of other dark horses? Keep an eye out on Lausanne Sport (SUI) and Omaha 3BALL (USA) who could easily go on a giant killing run.
Pool A: Antwerp (BEL), Dusseldorf LFDY (GER), Qualifier
Pool B: Amsterdam, Sansar MMC Energy (MGL), Omaha 3BALL (USA)
Pool C: Jeddah (KSA), Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy (MGL), Fribourg (SUI)
Pool D: Vienna (AUT), Lausanne (SUI), Utrecht (NED)
What's at stake
The top 2 teams in Pristina will qualify for the Debrecen Masters on August 27-28, 2022, as part of the FIBA 3x3 World Tour.
How to watch
The two-day extravaganza is on July 16-17 and you can follow it live on the FIBA 3x3 YouTube and Facebook pages.
Haven't registered or done your team yet? Make sure you download the 3x3 Fantasy app and get a chance to win an official Wilson 3x3 ball.