3X3 teams put final touches
With the second FIBA U18 World Championships set to get underway on Friday, most of the teams in the field made their way to the José Caballero sports centre on Thursday to test out the competition venue.
Australia and New Zealand were the first ones to try out the custom-made courts that will host the action over the three days. It wasn’t long before they were joined by China, Russia and France and Kazakhstan as the six courts were all buzzing by midday.
It wasn’t long before the French girls started scrimmaging against their Australian counterparts and there was no holding back in the friendly between the French and Russian boys.
“This is a great set-up,” said Anamata Haku of New Zealand, who are the reigning boys champions. “The courts look good and I’m sure it will be a great tournament.”
The Junior Tall Blacks are a completely different team than the one that triumphed in Rimini, Italy last year.
“There’s some pressure to defend the title won last year. We trained with the boys that won last year, we’re friends with them so they told us to win their title back.”
Australia’s girls practiced with and against their fellow countrymen as well as the young Tall Blacks boys.
For Stephanie Bairstow, there’s no doubt it will prove a great help in the tournament.
“It’s helping us get a lot more physical and finishing better and pushing us to do what we know we can do instead of just going through the motions,” she said.
France had their senior teams do extremely well at the first-ever FIBA 3×3 World Championships in Athens, Greece last month, coming away with two silvers and a bronze in the team competitions.
It will be tough for the U18 boys’ and girls’ teams to replicate that kind of success, especially as they have gone with a young generation of 17-year-olds.
Damien Inglis, who played for France at the FIBA U17 World Championship in Lithuania this past summer, is excited about the opportunity to represent his country in 3×3.
“We’re very young, we’re all born in 1995 so we’re among the youngest teams in this tournament. But it’s really exciting to be here,” he smiled.
“3×3 is great because there’s a lot more space to drive, to shoot. That’s why I like it.”
Inglis is one of a number of players who will have a busy schedule as he is also playing in the Mixed Tournament, where teams consist of two boys and two girls. France play Italy in the Quarter-Finals.
In the afternoon, the USA, Brazil, Switzerland, along with Hong Kong and hosts Spain were among the teams to take over the courts.
Once again, it wasn’t unusual to see scrimmages of boys going up against girls or boys and girls playing together.
“We’re going to win the tournament!” Spain’s Altor Zubizaretta warned. “We’re playing at home, we have a great team!”
His team-mate, David Iriarte, was a bit more cautious.
“We have a lot of games to play but we’re hoping to use the home court advantage we have,” he said.
The girls from Hong Kong were all smiles and couldn’t wait to play but also to be inspired by looking at some of the other teams.
They will get their chance to do both as the FIBA 3×3 U18 World Championships start on Friday at 13:00 local time (GMT +2).
Keep up with progress at the FIBA World 3×3 Youth Championships here.