Utsunomiya Brex, Saitama Alphas darkhorses in 3×3 Cebu Masters competition
CEBU CITY,Philippines — The Utsunomiya Brex and the Saitama Alphas of Japan are considered as the darkhorses in the upcoming Chooks-to-Go FIBA 3×3 World Tour Cebu Masters this wekeend, Oct. 1 and 2, 2022 at the SM Seaside City Cebu.
These two emerging 3×3 squads have been getting everyone’s attention recently after putting up great performances in various FIBA sanctioned 3×3 tournaments abroad.
The Utsunomiya Brex is the highest-ranked Japanese team in the world at 28th. In the opener of the World Tour last May in Japan, the Utsunomiya Masters gave the world No. 2 Liman of Serbia a hard time during their match, before bowing down to the latter and finished ninth place in the tournament.
In their following campaigns, the Utsunomiya Brex also placed ninth in the Ulaanbaatar Challenge. They had their best outing in the Energy Sukhbaatar Challenger by salvaging fifth place. Most recently, they placed sixth in the Penang Challenger in Malaysia.
The team is comprised of Japanese veterans, 6-foot-1 Yosuke Saito, the second highest ranked Japanese in the world at 166th, and 6-foot-2 Yasui Iijima.
The two are complemented by a duo of outstanding Serbian reinforcements in 6-foot-4 Dusan Popovic who is 117th in the world. His namesake, 6-foot-4 Dusan Samardzic is 107th in the world and was the star of the Serbian national team that placed 3rd in the FIBA 3×3 U23 World Cup.
On the other hand, the Saitama Alphas are returning to the Philippines, two weeks after topping the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 International Quest held last Sept. 16 in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
In the Penang Challenger earlier this month, Saitama made it to the quarterfinals despite being undermanned and made it to the main draw. They upset World No. 1 Lausanne of Switzerland, 22-20, and finished seventh in the competition with Cebu Chooks trailing them at the eighth spot.
Saitama will be manned by Tomoya Ochia, who at 176th in the world and the third highest ranked Japanese 3×3 player. 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.
The rest of the team is comprised of six-foot-six Serbian Marko Milakovic, compatriot, 6-foot-9 Teodor Atanasov, and Japanese-Australian Ryo Ozawa.
Aside from these Japanese squads, the host team Cebu Chooks and Manila Chooks won’t be pushovers as they are competing in front of passionate Filipino fans.
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