Ulaanbaatar 3x3 Challenger Preview: A taste of World Cup in Mongolia
ULAANBAATAR (3x3 Challengers) - Just 1 week before the FIBA 3x3 World Cup in the Philippines (June 8-12), no less than 22 World Cup players will compete at the Ulaanbaatar 3x3 Challenger in the Mongolian capital on June 2-3, 2018.
Traditionally players would have 2 main goals entering a Challenger: the 20,000 USD in prize money and the 2 tickets to the World Tour (in this case, the Kuala Lumpur Masters). However in Ulaanbaatar, some of the biggest 3x3 stars will also make the last adjustments heading into the 3x3 World Cup, where they will represent their country.
Behind Novi Sad (SRB), Piran (SLO), Moskva (RUS), a mixture of Gdansk Energa 3x3 and Kolobrzeg (POL), Ulaanbaatar (MGL) and Saskatoon (CAN), it's basically the Serbian, Slovenian, Russian, Polish, Mongolian and Canadian national teams which will test themselves in Mongolia this weekend.
Pool A will be headlined by the number 1 team in the world Novi Sad, a squad that has been struggling so far this season (didn't reach the final in any of the 4 Challengers they've played so far). Worse: they will be joined by 2 very dangerous teams in local favorites Khovd (MGL), who reached the Wuxi Challenger semi-finals, and the recent finalists of the Sydney Challenger, Melbourne i-Athletic (AUS), who's basically the Australian national team (who did not qualify for the World Cup).
Piran (SLO) is 1 of the only 2 teams who have won 2 Challengers so far this season (Penang and Sydney - Liman (SRB) is the other squad). They will be the team to watch in Pool B with Moskva (RUS), which will feature 3 players who will represent Russia at the World Cup and Team Rio Preto Guarani (BRA), coming all the way from Brazil.
3x3's best trash talker Michael Hicks will spearhead Gdansk Energa 3x3 in Pool C and meet again Serbian star Nikola Pavlovic who helped Novi Sad win 3 Masters last year before joining Yokohama City (JPN) this season. The winners of Qualifying Draw's Pool A will complete the pool.
Last but not least, local stars Ulaanbaatar will get a tough matchup early with Saskatoon (CAN), who will test their newest addition Jermaine Bucknor for the first time. The winners of Qualifying Draw's Pool B will join these 2 in Pool D.
Three Top 10 and 4 more Top 23 teams in the world will compete in Ulaanbaatar..
Four teams have already stamped their ticket to the Kuala Lumpur Masters, which will be staged on October 13-14: Zemun (SRB) and Kranj (SLO) [based on ranking], Princeton (USA) and Liman (SRB).
The Challenger will be livestreamed on youtube.com/FIBA3x3