How Ub Huishan NE won FIBA 3x3 World Tour Abu Dhabi Final 2022
ABU DHABI (UAE) - When Ub Huishan NE had their record start to the FIBA 3x3 World Tour 2022, where they won the first four Masters, superstar Dejan Majstorovic's vision was becoming a reality.
'The Maestro' joined Ub ahead of the 2021 season after the breakup of legendary Novi Sad, who were the best team last decade. Majstorovic, one of the greatest 3x3 players of all time, had a simple message for his teammates after making the switch to Ub.
"When we started to play together, I said 'the only reason I came to your team is because I want to be the best team in the world. I want to win every match.'," Majstorovic recalled.
After their red-hot start, the spectacular Serbs were being renamed 'Ub-beatable' as it appeared no one could beat them. But their sheen of invincibility wore off after their winning run came to an end when they fell to Antwerp in the final of the Debrecen Masters.
"After four title wins we then relaxed in Debrecen. We had a lot of stress and pressure," Majstorovic said.
It started a drought on the World Tour for Ub, who fell short in their next three Masters events ahead of the Abu Dhabi Final.
"You need to go down a bit, can't keep winning for eight-nine months straight," said Ub talisman and No.1 ranked player Strahinja Stojacic.
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Facing question marks, and also major challenges from rivals especially reloaded Riga, Ub's confidence wasn't shaken ahead of the showpiece event in Abu Dhabi even though they were knocked out in the quarters at last year's World Tour Final.
"We knew we were going to win," said Nemanja Barac, who was recruited before the season and became a glue guy for the team.
Ub had built up their training for the biggest prize on the World Tour in the hope they could peak at the right time. Being written off also fuelled the No.1 ranked team, particularly when Kyle Montgomery aka 'The Voice' tipped Riga to win the title in Abu Dhabi.
"I told him 'you'll see what Ub can do'. It motivated us even more," Majstorovic said.
Ub's confidence was justified when they beat Princeton and Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy on Day One, before taking down Lausanne Sport in the quarters with Marko Brankovic starring with a game high 9 points en route to the MVP.
They faced Amsterdam HiPRO in a semi-final blockbuster but Ub made sure the final four curse for the Dutch continued with a comfortable 21-14 victory in a dominant win that revived memories of their early season form.
"We had easy layups in the last minute and it was our best game of the tournament," Majstorovic said.
It meant Ub faced Vienna in the final in a match up between the Stojacic brothers - Strahinja and Stefan, who had inspired the Austrians after returning to his best following a serious knee injury.
The teams had split two recent games on the World Tour and were chasing a first World Tour Final triumph. But Ub made their move early to build a handy lead and they looked poised for victory with an 18-12 edge.
But then Vienna hit back with four straight points, including three to Stefan Stojacic, to reduce Ub's lead to 18-16. The Serbs started to feel the nerves as the pressure built.
"We lost focus and they started to come back," Majstorovic said.
But with the season on the line, Stojacic aka 'Doctor Strange' showed why he is the No.1 ranked player in the world as he stepped up late, including the game-winning bucket from close range to seal Ub's first ever World Tour Final title.
"I'm so proud of this game. Someone always steps up for us," Majstorovic said.
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Even though he celebrated with raw emotion, Stojacic had a bittersweet feeling after beating his older brother who is still yet to taste victory at the World Tour Final.
"It is very difficult to play him.I know for him it was a dream to win a World Tour Final," Stojacic said of his brother whose nickname is 'Mr Robot'.
Deserving champions, Ub capped a brilliant year with the biggest prize to sit on 3x3's throne. And they'll be back intact in 2023 with Majstorovic declaring he's nowhere near done.
"I will continue. Stojacic and Brankovic never won before I came so I must stay," Majstorovic grinned.
Ub have set a new 3x3 standard and you just know they'll try to go up another level. But, right now, they are deservedly celebrating being the best team on the World Tour 2022.