Powerhouse Riga hunting first title this season at FIBA 3x3 Quebec Challenger
QUEBEC (Canada) - Powerhouse Riga (LAT) will be aiming to turn their fortunes around in the second half of the FIBA 3x3 pro circuit season starting with the Quebec Challenger on August 20-21.
It's been a frustrating season for the star-studded Latvians as they eye the prize in the tough 16-team field in Quebec as the pro circuit heads to Canada.
While 2021 was the year for the Latvians - with Riga boasting Olympic gold medalists - 2022 has been more difficult as 3x3's pool of talent deepens. In three Challengers and two Masters, Riga have yet to make the semis but you feel it's only a matter of time before they get back to their winning ways.
Superstar Nauris Miezis has not lost a step and he might appear all nice and friendly on the outside but he's one mean baller. You just know he's desperate for a W and if he brings his A-game then Riga might just end their drought.
No.2 seed Princeton (USA) could stand in their way with the Americans bringing a strong team over the border, including three members of Team USA's famous FIBA 3x3 World Cup 2019 triumph.
Scoring machine Robbie Hummel, Kareem Maddox and Canyon Barry - son of NBA legend Rick Barry - form an experienced trio who have done it all in 3x3. They've added the muscular Isiah Wilkerson, who is stronger than Thor and fitted in perfectly to make Princeton even nastier.
The Americans have finished runner-up at the Utsunomiya Opener and Edmonton Challenger so are desperate to break a three-year drought on the pro circuit.
Rounding out the contenders are Warsaw Lotto (POL) with the professional Poles struggling to live up to the hype.
They were unable to make it out of the pool phase at the Prague Masters but you just can't count out a team boasting walking bucket Przemyslaw Zamojski.
It looms as an open draw with plenty of teams believing they can genuinely go all the way. No.3 seed Marijampole Mantinga (LTU) is one of those after a spectacular run to finish runner-up at the Poitiers Challenger.
Evaldas Dziaugys and Zygimantas Simonis were a deadly duo in Poitiers and the lethal Lithuanians will aim to be just as potent in Quebec.
No.4 seed Chicago (USA) haven't quite gotten going this season but you know what to expect from sniper Craig Moore. While Alex Johnson should arrive with a swagger having claimed bronze for Canada at the recent Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
If you want a dark horse then it might just be Hamburg (GER), who made the semis as host of the ING Hamburg Challenger. They beat Princeton in a thriller and the teams square up again in what looms as a Day 1 showdown, particularly the battle between lefty sharpshooter Niklas Kropp and Kareem Maddox - one of the best big men to ever do it.
We don't want to jinx them because they have to go through the long way, but Washington DC (USA) have quickly become a fan favorite and will scare opponents if they make the main draw.
One thing is for certain - the rims are going to shake when dunking machine Khalil Iverson is doing his thing.
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Pool A: Riga (LAT), Omaha 3Ball (USA), Lublin Lotto (POL)
Pool B: Princeton (USA), Hamburg (GER), Versailles (FRA)
Pool C: Marijampole Mantinga (LTU), Beijing (CHN), Qualifier
Pool D: Chicago (USA), Warsaw Lotto (POL), Qualifier
What's at stake
The top 2 teams in Quebec will qualify for the Cebu Masters on October 1-2, 2022, as part of the FIBA 3x3 World Tour.
How to watch
The two-day extravaganza is on August 20-21 and you can follow it live on the FIBA 3x3 YouTube and Facebook pages.
Haven't registered or done your team yet? Make sure you download the 3x3 Fantasy app and get a chance to win an official Wilson 3x3 ball.