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Japanese FIBA 3×3 World Tour teams Utsonomiya Brex and the Saitama Alphas will be in action in the FIBA 3×3 World Tour 2022 Cebu Masters as they try to further strengthen the country’s status as a rising Asian 3×3 power.
Both sides have performed creditably in the World Tour circuit this season. Utsonomiya Brex is the No. 28 3×3 club in the world. During the Utsunomiya Masters last May, the squad dropped dropped close decisions to world No. 2 Liman of Serbia and world No. 9 Sakiai of Lithuania, before finishing ninth in the tournament.
Bannered by 6-foot-1 Yosuke Saito, the No. 2 ranked 3×3 player and Japan, and 6-foot-2 Yasui Iijima, the team also finished ninth in the Ulaanbaatar Challenger, before having their breakthrough fifth and sixth place finishes in the Energy Sukhbaatar Challenger and Penang Challenger, respectively.
The Japanese duo is complemented by two outstanding Serbian reinforcements: 6-foot-4 Dusan Popovic, who is No. 117 in the individual rankings worldwide, and 6-foot-4 Dusan Samardzic, the world No. 107 who also starred for the Serbian national team that placed 3rd in the FIBA 3×3 U23 World Cup.
On the other hand, the Saitama Alphas are coming back to the Philippines just two weeks after reigning supreme in the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 International Quest held last September 16 in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
The Alphas have been active in the FIBA 3×3 tour and is challenging Utsunomiya Brex’s claim as Japan’s top team.
In the Penang Challenger, Saitama made it all the way to the quarterfinals despite having just three players on the roster and going through the qualifying draw. The Alphas earned a slot in the main draw after defeating Penang of Malaysia and Lusail of Qatar.
In the main draw, the Alphas pulled the upset rug from world No. 10 Lausanne of Switzerland, 22-20. Saitama eventually placed seventh overall in the competition, even higher than Cebu Chooks’ eighth in the Manila Masters last May.
Saitama will be fielding in the same roster that won the in Sta. Rosa. Expected to lead is Japan No. 3 Tomoya Ochia. Ochia is a long-time member of the Japan national 3×3 team and played in the Tokyo Olympics, the 2022 FIBA 3×3 World Cup, and the 2022 FIBA 3×3 Asia Cup.
Two Serbian bigs, 6-foot-6 Marko Milakovic and 6-foot-9 Teodor Atanasov, plus Japanese-Australian Ryo Ozawa complete the Saitama squad that wants to show in the Cebu Masters that they are the real Alphas of 3×3 basketball.
Photo from Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas
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