Things to look forward to ahead of FIBA 3x3 Utsunomiya Opener 2023
UTSUNOMIYA (Japan) - It's the final countdown as the FIBA 3x3 World Tour 2023 season launches at the much-anticipated Utsunomiya Opener on April 29-30.
To get you hyped let's look at some of the things to look forward to at an event where you will see several new teams and stars in different jerseys but also established 3x3 powerhouses.
No.1 Ub will aim to be even better in 2023
2022 was unforgettable for Ub Huishan NE (SRB), whose season for the ages started by winning the Utsunomiya Opener.
Ub went an incredible 34 of 41 on the pro circuit, including five titles on the World Tour capped by the Abu Dhabi Final.
It feels almost an impossible task to follow but you just know these spectacular Serbs led by No.1 player Strahinja Stojacic and legend Dejan Majstorovic will have been plotting ways in the off-season to get even better.
Ub were the best team we've seen since Majstorovic's former side Novi Sad were dominating 3x3 last decade and they will be keen to emulate their sustained success over many years.
They'll return to Japan with happy memories but will be focused on a new challenge in an even tougher World Tour.
Miami loom as the USA's Dream Team
It's been a tough start to the decade for American teams, but with the Paris Olympics on the horizon, the mighty hoops nation mean business.
For the World Tour, they've brought together some of their biggest stars to form a glitzy new team, fittingly, called Miami (USA).
The newcomers are going to be box office with former Princeton stars Kareem Maddox and Canyon Barry joined by ex-Omaha scoring machine Dylan Travis and highly popular former NBA player Jimmer Fredette.
This team is stacked and were the foursome that brought home gold for USA at last year's FIBA 3x3 AmeriCup. They clearly gel well but will need to cope with a lot of eyeballs on a team with 'Jimmer Mania' behind them.
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De Jong will be a worthy addition to Amsterdam
Worthy de Jong absolutely lit up last year's World Tour in a spectacular debut for the high-flying Dutchman.
He put Utrecht on the map, but has since moved to compatriots Amsterdam HiPRO (NED) in what might shake up the World Tour.
The always competitive Amsterdam are hoping for a spark after a frustrating 2022, where they made the semis in 6 of 7 events on the World Tour only to lose at that stage every single time.
The athletic de Jong might just be able to be a difference maker for Amsterdam and he provides them with extra scoring punch and dazzling playmaking skills.
He loves performing under the bright lights deep in tournaments and de Jong might just be able to help end Amsterdam's semi-final curse.
This might be Mongolia's breakout on the World Tour
Mongolia started the 3x3 season with a bang after claiming the FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup 2023 with an epic victory over three-time defending champs Australia.
They are hoping that success can rub off on their teams on the World Tour with Mongolia's top team Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy led by Asia Cup 2023 MVP Delgernyam Davaasambuu.
The hero of their victory over Australia was walking bucket Anand Ariunbold, who had the title-winning three-point play and the 26-year-old is on the cusp of superstardom.
He's the main man for Sansar MMC Energy alongside his Asia Cup winning teammate Enkhbaatar Onolbaatar.
While Sansar have also been boosted by the addition of ex-Liman star Aleksandar Ratkov in a key signing.
Be ready because the Mongolian teams are confident and feel poised to make a run at contending for the big prizes on the World Tour.
Caspar Augustijnen is set to make the leap
No Thibaut Vervoort, no worries. Well, it might not be so simple for Antwerp, who won't have the services of 'Must See TV' but there is a lot to like about the Belgians starting with big fella Casper Augustijnen, who was a breakout player last season.
The 6ft. 8in (2.03m) Augustijnen is a menace with his Inspector Gadget-like arms and a force on O and D. He's freakishly athletic and seems created in a lab because he's a perfect specimen for 3x3.
It's going to be tough to replace Vervoort, but the 24-year-old Augustijnen might just be the best youngster in the game and his development will excite Antwerp fans.
Diggs is ready to shoulder more responsibility for improving Vienna
Quincy Diggs settled in seamlessly for Vienna, who went on a late season run last year to cement themselves as one of the best teams on the World Tour.
Last season Diggs was at times unstoppable, with his eye-catching moves and ability to score buckets from every angle on the half-court.
There's a good reason why the American is rated the No.1 player in the USA. Just click on the video below if you haven't seen his insane moves.
The 6ft. 6in (1.98m) force of nature will enjoy being the lead man because Diggs has already proved in his brief 3x3 career that he's best when the lights are shining brightest.
These lethal Lithuanians have beautiful chemistry
They might now be known as Raudondvaris Hoptrans - formerly Sakiai Gulbele - but these Lithuanians will have more chemistry than the classes taught be Walter White.
Aurelijus Pukelis and Marijus Uzupis return and that's trouble for opponents. They are probably the most underrated duo on the World Tour - an average of over 12 ppg combined last season was no joke.
They are assassins in the clutch and both love having the Wilson in their hands when the game is on the line.
With so many roster changes to rival teams, the familiarity of playing together might just aid these lethal Lithuanians, whose high seeding of 2 in Utsunomiya underlines their impressive standing.