Eleven players to watch at FIBA 3x3 World Tour Doha Masters
DOHA (Qatar) – This season's FIBA 3x3 World Tour starts in style with an absolutely loaded Doha Masters on March 26-27.
With the top 10 ranked teams in the world competing for the first title of 2021, let's have a look at the main players you must keep your eyes on.
Stefan Kojic (Liman)
With Stefan Stojacic aka 'Mr Robot' out injured, Kojic will have added pressure as Liman are out for revenge in Doha after agonizingly falling short last November.
Fortunately, 28-year-old Kojic is able to handle the responsibility having taken over from Stojacic as Liman's lead man the last couple of years.
The No.3 ranked player in the world was spectacular during the shortened 2020 season, tallying the fourth most points overall at an average of 5.8 ppg.
He starred in the Europe Masters, where he claimed the MVP after scoring 32 points in the event. Stojic can be nastier than rakia from beyond the arc when he's in full gear but sometimes his radar is off underlined by shooting just 29% on twos last season.
If he's clicking, watch out!
Karlis Lasmanis (Riga)
If you blink, 'Flight KLM' might have put a sorry defender in a body bag. If you look away, he might have hit a nasty step back two.
Moral of the story – don't look away even for a second because Lasmanis is bound to do something crazy.
Especially in Doha where the lethal lefty hit one of the greatest 3x3 shots ever to sink Liman in last year's epic final. 'Batman' (he does have a lot of nicknames) was the leading scorer overall on last year's World Tour and averaged 6.2 ppg but was surely No.1 in breathtaking plays.
Lasmanis can do it all but is selfless – he doesn't mind sometimes playing the support role to fellow superhero Nauris Miezis.
Most importantly, he's a winner.
Nauris Miezis (Riga)
It's unfair! Riga have enough superheroes to start a Marvel franchise with Miezis in 2020 proving that he's not merely 'Robin'.
The 29-year-old might be the baddest of them all after hitting a shot for the ages to lift Riga to their first World Tour Final title after again downing Liman.
Miezis has always been one of 3x3's best but he rose up a level last year and deservedly was named the World Tour's MVP.
And when the game is on the line, no one is better than this 1.90m (6ft 3in) assassin.
If Miezis has the ball in the clutch, opposing fans are forgiven for looking away.
Dejan Majstorovic (Ub)
Ub star Dejan Majstorovic - still sounds strange, doesn't it? The 'Maestro' was for so long synonymous with powerhouse Novi Sad with his sweet strokes perfectly complementing Dusan Bulut's spectacular game.
But Novi Sad's shock divorce has seen Majstorovic and Marko Savic join forces with Serb rival Ub making them one of the hottest prospects in Doha.
And Majstorovic has a point to prove in Qatar. He was well short of his best last season coming off an injury and averaging just 4.1 ppg with his once feared two-point shot completely falling apart at just 15%.
It was less than two years when the smooth-mover was arguably the best player in the world as he led a Bulut-less Novi Sad to the Chengdu Masters title.
Was his subpar 2020 just a blip or the start of a terminal decline?
We'll find out in Doha.
Dominique Jones (NY Harlem)
No player perhaps entertains more than 'Disco Domo' who is basically a lock for our top 5 plays of every Masters he plays.
After winning the regular season MVP in 2019, Jones dipped slightly in 2020 with his usual two-point reliability becoming streaky.
He also had to adjust with the rise of Joey King, who was NY Harlem's most reliable scorer last season.
If Jones and King can find chemistry then NY Harlem might have 3x3's deadliest offensive one-two punch.
Kareem Maddox (Princeton)
One of the sad things about 2020 was that we couldn't see all of our favorite teams regularly on the World Tour. Princeton's, who were runners-up in the World Tour Final 2019 , only appearance last year was in Doha due to the pandemic.
So we didn't get to see much of Kareem Maddox but he was still a force in Qatar with the most blocks and rebounds overall. In case you've forgotten, 'Reem' is cream around the basket and one of the most athletic players on the circuit.
Oh, don't think he can only score from around the rim. He is sneaky good from deep too.
Dusan Bulut (Novi Sad)
No list is complete without 3x3 GOAT Dusan Bulut aka 'Mr Bullutproof'. But there is uncertainty for this Serb magician, who will be playing without Majstorovic and Savic for the first time in ages.
He had moments of brilliance last season, but the 35-year-old often ran out of bullets and could not rescue Novi Sad from a disappointing season.
It also led to some believing he had been overtaken by Miezis as 3x3's best player.
But it's foolish to write off Bulut, who has done things on the 3x3 court that are impossible for all others.
An angry and motivated Bulut might well have the last laugh.
Julian Jaring (Amsterdam Talent&Pro)
The former Hague player, was part of Amsterdam's World Tour Final line-up last year but he couldn't get it going as the Dutch masters fell in the quarters.
But the athletic 30-year-old has a bucket load of talent and will be relied upon for more in Doha with Amsterdam without star Dimeo van der Horst and retired great Jesper Jobse.
The well-built 1.96m (6ft 5) Jaring impressed during the recent United League Europe event in Russia and hopes to build a strong partnership with star recruit Maksim Kovacevic, who will bring a ton of experience and trade secrets from Liman.
If they fire, Amsterdam could well prove a dark horse title contender.
Oh, almost forgot, Jaring can get higher than our Doha hotel (writing from the 36th floor) as he showed with one of the most spectacular plays on the World Tour last year.
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Darius Tarvydas (Sakiai Gulbele)
Sakiai were the breakout team in 2019 but struggled for consistency last season. Perhaps in a needed jolt, they've added the imposing 2m (6ft 7in) big man who has switched from compatriots Utena Uniclub.
It might be more than just a tilting of power in Lithuania with Tarvydas' addition hoped to add an interior presence to Sakiai with the strong fella a terrific rebounder but he can also heat up from range.
And the 3x3 OGs will remember, Tarvydas actually already won a Masters, way back in 2015 in Lausanne, representing Team Vilnius.
Sakiai is most certainly another x-factor team in Doha.
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Abdulrahman Saad (Lusail)
The talented 24-year-old will represent local hopes and he comes into the Masters in-form having starred for Lusail in the domestic league.
Saad, the No.2 ranked Qatari, played in the Doha Masters 2019 for Katara but should be a much more dangerous player on this occasion having since represented his country in several major 3x3 international events.
If you're looking for a breakout player, Abdulrahman Saad could be your man.
Filip Kramer (Graz)
Austrian team Graz emerged on the World Tour last year and appear set to make a leap this season. They made the quarters in their debut at the Debrecen Masters but could go even further in Doha especially if the dangerous Kramer gets going.
Kramer was overshadowed in Graz's recent victory at the Israel 3x3 Super Quest but he still showed off his sizzling skills by topping the overall highlights chart.
If the 28-year-old lights up, Graz might go deep in Doha.