Photo credit: Kenneth Chua
Written by: Wong Chin Yi
Bringing out the big guns
Spotted at the first day of the FIBA 3X3 Asia Cup
Although the preliminary rounds of any international basketball tournament tend to be dominated mainly by hopeful upstarts, featuring relative unknowns and a handful of up-and-coming starlets, the 3X3 format has introduced a new element of surprise into this process. This is because 3X3 tends to have its own stars, given that most national teams have set up dedicated 3X3 squads focusing on this mode of play, which can differ in requirements to the traditional 5-on-5 game.
However, many countries change their rosters from time to time, usually to give young superstars their big shot on the biggest stage (such as with Japan’s Keisei Tominaga and his debut at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics or with Paige Bueckers representing the United States). Occasionally, some 3X3 squads also trot out the big guns and feature their best and brightest to fight for a podium spot.
At the opening day of the FIBA 3X3 Asia Cup right here in Singapore, a few big names were spotted battling it out for a slot in the main draw:
Republic of Korea 🇰🇷: The Koreans came out firing with not just one, but two Korean Basketball League (KBL) MVPs in the high-flying, tough-nosed Song Kyo-chang and Heo Hoon, the do-it-all heir to the Korean basketball throne. As the son of the legendary Hur Jae and with a growing filmography off his charismatic, lively presence, Heo Hoon was undoubtedly the star of the day, with fans flocking after him and eagerly documenting his every move.
Thailand 🇹🇭: The roster features a couple of big men with big credentials, with Moses Morgan having starred for the Thai national team for a number of years and Chanatip Jakrawan taking over the reins as his nation’s go-to player. The hulking Jakrawan is an aggressive, mobile center with the ability to routinely dunk on his defender or finish with deft touches around the rim, and had previously featured as an import in the T1 League for Chinese Taipei. Morgan, on the other hand, should be no stranger to local fans as he has terrorised Southeast Asian defenses for years, and even played for local powerhouses Adroit when they competed in Malaysia’s Major Basketball League.
Malaysia 🇲🇾: Our friendly neighbours to the North have been lighting up the ASEAN Basketball League Invitational with their new entrants, NS Matrix, led by the dynamic duo of Ting Chun Hong, aka ‘Mei Mei’, and Ooi Xian Fu. The flashy two-some have brought their isolation-heavy game and fearless mindset to the FIBA 3X3 format, and will be looking to score some upsets against bigger names with a combination of athleticism and step-back threes.
Australia 🇦🇺: The MVP representation is not limited to the men’s category, as last year’s silver medallist Australia is once again headlined by their Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) MVP Anneli Maley. A former member of the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, Maley may have a deceptively slight frame but is a ferocious rebounder, who also possesses a bag of tricks on offense and an intimidating degree of physicality on defense.