Rising 3x3 power Antwerp looking for silverware in Ulaanbaatar at first Challenger event of 2022

ULAANBAATAR (Mongolia) - No.1 seed Antwerp will be eyeing a confidence boosting title in Ulaanbaatar as the wait is over with the first FIBA 3x3 Challenger event of 2022. 

In a loaded fielded, 14 teams will be hoping to make a statement while fighting for the prized two tickets available for the Prague Masters, which is the third stop on this year's FIBA 3x3 World Tour. 

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After such an incredible start to the pro circuit, the action will go up a notch in one of 3x3's favorite destinations with the two-day spectacle played in the Sky Resort, also known as the happiest place in Ulaanbaatar city.

Let's find out who might walk away the happiest. 


The Favorites 

Antwerp are No.1 seed for good reason. There has been no second season blues for the Belgian who took the World Tour by storm in 2021. 

They reached the semi-finals - for the fifth time in seven events - at the Utsumoniya Opener, which was a remarkable effort given Antwerp played without a sub.

But Bryan De Valck is back and Antwerp should feel good about their chances in an important hit out before next week's Manila Masters, where they are the No.2 seed. 

Even though they were shorthanded in Utsunomiya, Antwerp still made the final four thanks largely to Thibaut Vervoort whose second season is clearly better than his surprise hit in 2021. 

Vervoort was a walking bucket and led all scorers with 40 points at an insane 10ppg and if he can continue that pace, then Antwerp will be hard to stop. 

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Their biggest threat will be No.2 seed Amsterdam, who lived up to the hype in Utsunomiya to reach the semis only to fall to pumped-up Princeton in a 21-18 thriller. 

Dimeo van der Horst was a one-man show and put his team on his back as he finished second in overall scoring with 36 points. We can't wait for a shoot out between 'Dimes' and 'Must 'See TV' if they meet in Ulaanbaatar. 

But there are other contenders. Lethal Lithuanians Sakiai showed glimpses in Utsunomiya of their top form from 2019, where they were the darlings of 3x3, with a tough opening loss to powerhouse Liman before losing a tight quarter-final to Princeton. 

Sakiai's shooting was hotter than wasabi in Utsunomiya led by big man sniper Aurelijus Pukelis, who really needs to shoot more in Ulaanbaatar if the No.3 seed are to go all the way. 

Rounding out the contenders are No.4 seed Jeddah, who looked totally out of sync in Utsunomiya after losses to Antwerp and Vienna. They had a horror debut after the much-hyped additions of 3x3 legend Simon Finzgar and Lithuanian Darius Tarvydas.

We will chalk the struggles down to them still developing chemistry but the Saudi Arabians really need to improve in Ulaanbaatar. 

The Field

Once again, as well know by now, anyone can make noise and even go all the way. But the dark horses just have to be the home teams, who will be boosted by their passionate fans in a country where 3x3 is king. 

Zaisan MMC Energy have taken the early stages of the pro circuit by storm after winning the  Ulaanbaatar Super Quest and finishing runner-up at Asia Pacific Super Quest 2022

But they will be without 22-year-old dynamo Gan-Erdene Gantsolmon, who was in heat check mode throughout those two events as he made an early case to be the breakout star of 2022. 

 His absence might open the door in a tough Pool A, headed by Antwerp, for Sansar MMC Energy, who were runner-up at the Asia Pacific Super Quest. For the Mongolians to get out of the group,  25-year-old star Anand Ariunbold needs to catch fire and issue a reminder of his insane talents. 

But the best Mongolian team is probably Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy, who have their national players plus prized recruit Steve Sir. The Canadian 3x3 legend has not lost the shooter's touch as he lit up the Ulaanbaatar Super Quest with his trademark Yessirrr catch cry from deep. 

Ulaanbaatar reached the semis on that occasion but will be hoping to go even deeper here as each of these three Mongolian teams aim for momentum ahead of the Manila Masters. 



Pool A: Antwerp (BEL), Zaisan MMC Energy (MGL), Sansar MMC Energy (MGL)
Pool B: 
Amsterdam (NED),  Dusseldorf LFDY (GER), Qualifying Draw Winners
Pool C:
Sakiai (LTU), Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy (MGL), Utsunomiya BREX (JPN)
Pool D:
Jeddah (KSA), Marijampole Mantinga (LTU),  Yokohama Beefman (JPN)

What's at stake

The top 2 teams in Ulaanbaatar will qualify for the Prague Masters on July 30-31, 2022, as part of the FIBA 3x3 World Tour.

How to watch

The two-day extravaganza is on May 21-22 and you can follow it live on the FIBA 3x3 YouTube and Facebook pages.


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