Japanese teams coming to compete in Chooks-to-Go FIBA 3x3 World Tour Cebu Masters

Two teams from Japan are coming to Cebu to try and wrest the title in the Chooks-to-Go FIBA 3x3 World Tour Cebu Masters which starts this Saturday at the SM Seaside City Cebu.

While Mongolia and the Philippines have made waves in FIBA 3x3 basketball of late, Japan is quickly catching up and has seen two of its teams—Utsunomiya Brex and the Saitama Alphas—perform creditably in the World Tour.

The Utsunomiya Brex is the highest-ranked Japanese team in the world at 28th. In the opener of the World Tour, the Utsunomiya Masters, which the team hosted last May, the Utsunomiya Brex lost close games to Liman of Serbia, the 2nd ranked team in the world, and to Sakiai of Lithuania, 6th in the world. Utsunomiya ended up in ninth place in the tournament.

The team also finished ninth in the Ulaanbaatar Challenger. They had their best performances in the 3x3 tour during the Energy Sukhbaatar Challenger where they copped 5th place and, in the Penang Challenger, where they finished sixth.

The Utsunomiya Brex is bannered by a pair 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. 6-foot-4 Dusan Popovic is ranked 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 3x3 U23 World Cup.

The Saitama Alphas, on the other hand, are coming back to the Philippines just two weeks after reigning supreme in the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 International Quest held last September 16 in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

Saitama will be fielding in the same roster that won the in Sta. Rosa. Expected to lead is Tomoya Ochia, who at 176th in the world is the third highest ranked Japanese 3x3 player. Ochia is a long-time member of the Japan national 3x3 team and played in the Tokyo Olympics, the 2022 FIBA 3x3 World Cup, and the 2022 FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup.

Six-foot-six Serbian Marko Milakovic, who starred in their title conquest, and compatriot, 6-foot-9 Teodor Atanasov, plus Japanese-Australian Ryo Ozawa complete the Saitama squad.