The New Zealand representatives at this weekend’s Japan leg of the FIBA 3x3 World Tour are hoping they’ll be able to take the tournament by surprise when it tips off on Saturday.
Team Auckland qualified for this weekend’s tournament by winning the Burger King 3x3 Quest Tour in NZ earlier this year, and know greater challenges lie ahead in Utsunomiya, Japan.
“Team Auckland will meet Krakow and Piran, both of whom are very good teams, and they’ll need to win both of those games to ensure a good placing in the quarter finals,” manager David Huxford said.
The Kiwi side are ranked 11th out of the 12 teams at the tournament, with Krakow ranked sixth and Piran among the favourites ranked third.
That means they’ll have to be at their best if they’re to pick up wins.
“Our strength is that we are largely unknown,” Huxford said.
“A lot of the teams in this event are competing in their 4th, 5th or more event with the same team members, and sometimes being the wildcard in a competition can play in our favour.”
While every tournament is important, there’s a greater goal at play here too, with 3x3 basketball to become an Olympic sport at Tokyo 2020.
Of course, it’s presence at the Olympics has now made it a more attractive sport to participate in, and thus tougher to compete in.
“3x3 events in general are becoming tougher to win medals in as more and more countries adopt the new discipline,” Huxford said.
“However, as early adopters of 3x3, NZ is in a good position to utilise the foundations set in place over the past six years to stay in the top ten in the world as we work towards a team to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.”
The four man Auckland team was dealt a blow earlier this week, with Connor Woodbridge ruled out with an AC injury, and replaced by his older brother Michael.
The teams will play for a cash prize of $20,000 USD ($26,961 NZD) and the chance to qualify for the FIBA 3x3 World Tour Bloomage Beijing Final on 21-22 October 2017.
Team Auckland schedule:
Saturday 29th July
1:30pm (4:30pm NZT) - Piran vs Auckland
3:55pm (6:55pm NZT) - Krakow vs Auckland
Sunday 30th July
Quarterfinals, semifinals, final - schedule TBC
Matches will be streamed live on the FIBA 3x3 Youtube channel - https://www.youtube.com/FIBA3x3