Top 10 players to watch at FIBA 3x3 World Tour Utsunomiya Opener 2022
Let's look at 10 of the best who are out to prove they haven't missed a beat during the off-season.
Strahinja Stojacic (Ub)
We've always known the younger Stojacic - having for so long been overshadowed by his brother Stefan aka 'Mr Robot - had game in him. But in 2021, Strahinja Stojacic proved he was a big game player highlighted by winning the MVP at the Montreal Masters.
He reached No.1 in the rankings at one point and it was well deserved because the 29-year-old was a walking bucket getter. He finished No.3 in scoring - only 'Batman' and 'Robin' scored more - but was No.1 in highlights, dunks and drives.
To the surprise of no one he was named the 'Most Spectacular Player of the World Tour 2021'.
The 6ft. 6in (1.98m) athletic beast was stronger, faster and could jump higher than ever before. You can make a case that he's the most entertaining player in 3x3.
If he's improved just a little bit more, he might wear the 3x3 crown. We can't wait to find out in Utsunomiya.
Thibaut Vervoort (Antwerp)
It's time for season two of the hottest show on TV. And we bet that the sequel will be better than the original because Thibaut Vervoort aka 'Must See TV' wants to be a 3x3 great.
During his incredible debut, where he won Rookie of the Year, Vervoort made a name for himself - leading to one of the catchiest nicknames - and gave respectability to Antwerp and Belgium, who almost made the podium at the Tokyo Olympics.
The 6ft. 5in (1.96m) Vervoort quickly became of the best 3x3 players in the business with an unstoppable package where he can score from any angle and pack a punch like Van Damme in the clutch.
But that's just the start of his journey. Antwerp were close but couldn't breakthrough on the World Tour leaving them with motivation to improve. You can just bet Vervoort has been finding ways to get even better in 2022.
There won't be any second year blues for the No.5 ranked player who might be close to No.1 by the time this season is done with.
Stefan Kojic (Liman)
New season, same results. Stefan Kojic is one of the most consistent players in 3x3 and the sharpshooter had the second best average of 6.1ppg for the top 10 scorers last season.
The 29-year-old had an injury interrupted 2021 but he's fit and firing entering Utsunomiya and ready to again light up the World Tour.
He might be the most underrated star in 3x3 because he doesn't put people on posters or break ankles. But he's the ultimate sniper and rarely plays a bad or even average game.
Look up and he's already in double digits. Look away for a split second and he's gone bang, bang.
Don't take Stefan Kojic's greatness for granted.
Nauris Miezis (Riga)
Robin's the No.1 player in the world. And he's been in this situation before where the 6ft. 3in (1.9m) perfectly packaged 3x3 player raises his game.
He loves the extra responsibility - but you know that already because Miezis is the baddest man on the planet when the game is on the line.
Miezis - along with teammates Edgars Krumins and Agnis Cavars - fulfilled his life long dream of winning an Olympic gold medal but the fire still burns brightly inside.
For a guy who was written off since he was young, Nauris Miezis will again be out to prove a point and show he can play the lead role when he wants to.
Dimeo van der Horst (Amsterdam)
With some extra help in 2021, 'Dimes' was more efficient and effective than he's ever been. That meant he was very dangerous, which helped Team Amsterdam become one of the very best teams on the World Tour.
He has it all - van der Horst score from inside and outside while capable of doing the ridiculous. He's always a contender for the Top 5 plays.
And he might just be a leading contender to make the jump from very good player to great player if he can find a bit more consistency.
A strong showing in Utsunomiya might well set the tone for the rest of his season.
Kareem Maddox (Princeton)
Get ready for a revenge act from one of 3x3's favorites - Kareem Maddox. It's been a tough couple of seasons for the American with Princeton unable to travel much during the Covid-19 pandemic and he was part of Team USA's shock inability to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
But that has only made the 6ft. 8in (2.03m) star player more determined. He had pondered quitting 3x3 but the disappointment has only made him stronger.
Expect Maddox - who is fit and firing after intense workouts during the off-season - to patrol a defense looking to get back to the well oiled machine of 2019, where Princeton were runner-up at the Utsunomiya Final.
And expect Maddox to be a Mad Man around the rim where he loves nothing more than throwing a block party while stuffing the rim when it's his turn on O.
He's on a revenge tour, after all.
Robbie Hummel (Princeton)
The former Minnesota Timberwolves player has a great life. But that's not enough for the 6ft. 8in (2.03m) Hummel. He has unfinished business in 3x3. Much like Maddox, the disappointment of the last couple of years still stings him and Hummel wants to taste those sweet Ws again.
And issue a reminder that he's maybe the best player in the business when he's feeling it.
As the front man of 3x3's Redeem Team, Robbie Hummel has a chip on his shoulder and that's bad news for opponents.
Filip Kramer (Vienna)
Buckle up for 'Kramer Time'. It's almost a given that this 6ft 7in (2m) high-flyer will be in the Top 5 plays.
But the Austrian wants to be known more than a highlights machine. And with new mentor Stefan Stojacic - one of the best to ever do it - teaching him new tricks, Kramer is set to have more weapons than Schwarzenegger in Commando.
If he can be explosive and efficient, that's one mean combination that will leave defenders with headaches.
Yosuke Saito (Utsunomiya)
The last time Saito was sighted on the World Tour, he was part of Utsunomiya's semi-final finish at the Jeddah Masters.
But since then, the 6ft (1.83m) sniper has taken his game to a new level and dominated in Japan's local league for an Utsunomiya team who mean business and are determined to put on a show for the home fans.
Be warned, Saioto can get hotter than wasabi. And if he does then the whole 3x3 world will be put on notice.
Ovidijus Varanauskas (Jeddah)
The Lithuanian is part of new-look Jeddah, who appear a team fully capable of making a big splash on the World Tour in 2022.
Having been a star in 3x3's early days mid last decade, Varanauskas returned to the World Tour in style last year in Prague after helping Jeddah become the first Saudi Arabian team to win a Masters title.
The explosive 6ft. 2in (1.87m) player will form a potentially devastating offensive line-up with Nemanja Draskovic and prized recruits Darius Tarvydas and Simon Finzgar.
If the pieces fit, look out.