Two days before the highly anticipated 2018 FIBA 3×3 World Cup, five teams from Group B are all ready to leave their mark at the Philippine Arena.
Headlining the group is perennial powerhouse Slovenia, which is coming off a strong fourth place finish in the FIBA 3×3 World Cup 2017 in France last year.
The Slovenian squad is once again sticking to its main guns, as it brings back all four players from last year’s tourney — Simon Finzgar, Adin Kavgic, Gašper Ovnik and Anže Srebovt.
Surging Poland and Estonia, meanwhile, look to finally break into the Top 5 and establish themselves as legitimate contenders in their quest for 3 x 3 basketball supremacy.
Unlike Slovenia, Poland only retained the services of Szymon Rduch from last year’s team and will feature three new faces in the person of Michael Hicks, Pawel Pawlowski and Marcin Sroka.
Estonia looks to rewrite the entire script altogether by sending four new reinforcements this year in Martin Dorbek, Joonas Järveläinen, Maik-Kalev Kotsar and Jaan Puidet.
Japan and Indonesia, on the other hand, are out to prove that they are far better than their world ranking.
Although coming up short from obtaining a medal last year, the second seeded squad features one of the most intimidating lineups in the tourney, with Finzgar, Kavgic, Ovnik and Srebovt ranking seventh , 11th, 13th and 5th in 3 x 3 world player ranking, respectively.
The Polish and Estonians could prove a threat to the FIBA Europe 3 x 3 runners-up, but Slovenia’s experience and familiarity with one another could once again carry the team to the next stage and possibly take it further from its 2016 bronze-medal finish.
Finishing 10th last year, Poland will lean on the flashy game of US-born Michael Hicks (ranked #31) to propel them to new heights.
The 34-year-old gunner boasts an impressive offensive repertoire with dazzling crossovers and an ever dependable outside shot.
With the addition of three seasoned players in Hicks, Pawlowski (36) and Sroka (7918), Poland is favored to advance to the knockout stages of the competition.
Opting to go for clean slate once more, Estonia brings an unproven young core into the tournament this year.
Despite the lack of household names in its lineup, it will be interesting to see how the team will utilize it’s 6’10 bruiser Maik-Kalev Kotsar (2120). The 21-year-old has also suited up for the South Carolina Gamecocks in the NCAA Division 1.
Japan returns to the tourney after a one-year absence with Shuta Hara, Masahiro Komatsu (89), Tomoya Ochiai (264) and Keita Suzuki (90).
The team finished third in the FIBA Asia 3 x 3 Cup 2018 in China with a closely contested victory over New Zealand, 21-20.
The Indonesian squad willl no doubt field one of the smallest line-ups in the tournament with Erick Jonathan Gosal (836), Rivaldo Pangesthio (2208), Fandi Andika (11858) and Ebrahim Enguio Lopez coming in not taller than 6’2.
It will also mark the FIBA 3 x 3 debut for Lopez, a Filipino-Indonesian player, who used to play collegiate basketball for the UE Red Warriors in the UAAP. He also suited up for Tanduay Light Rum Masters and the Marinerong Pilipino in the PBA D-League before joining the CLS Knights Indonesia for the ASEAN Basketball League.
(photos and videos from FIBA)