All we learned from FIBA 3x3 World Tour Utsunomiya Opener 2022

16 May 2022

UTSUNOMIYA (Japan) - The FIBA 3x3 World Tour returned in style after an incredible Utsunomiya Opener on May 14-15 filled with crazy games, insane dunks, buzzer beaters and entertainment galore.

After this two-day 3x3 feast, let's finally catch a breath and find out what we've learned.

Ub Huishan NE deserve top status

Ub Huishan NE finished 2021 as a deserved No.1 in the world ranking but entered the new season with a point to prove that they were indeed the best team in an increasingly congested World Tour.

These spectacular Serbs made their point in resounding style with their third title on the World Tour in less than 12 months to live up to top billing.,

But it wasn't easy after dropping their opening game against Princeton and were made to work in every game highlighted by a quarter-final OT classic against compatriots Liman.


With the game on the line, Dejan Majstorovic proved he was still the 'Maestro' with the clutch Maurice Lacroix buzzer beater from two and the former Novi Sad legend just gets better with age. Majstorovic's love affair with Utsunomiya continued after winning his fourth title in the historical Japanese city.

He combined perfectly with partner in crime Strahinja Stojacic, who seemingly has added another inch to his vertical to runaway with the MVP. You guessed it, this meme machine again finished No.1 in highlights (24).

Scarily for opponents, it wasn't just a one-two punch with Marko Brankovic no third wheel after finishing with 29 points he and was joint top scorer for Ub alongside Stojacic.

Ub overcame Thibaut Vervoort's Antwerp in the semis before getting revenge on Princeton to make an early season statement.

They are No.1 for good reason. Ub, right now, are top dogs in 3x3.

Princeton are back!

After two lean years on the World Tour, where they struggled to find their groove during Covid-19 disrupted seasons, Princeton promised they would return to the form of 2019 when they were a powerhouse.

And they did exactly that with a runner-up finish to prove they remain USA's best team and also a likely serious contender on the World Tour in 2022.

Kareem Maddox and Robbie Hummel, the core of the team for a long time, were outstanding and combined for 62 points to arguably be the best duo in Utsunomiya.

After a tough 2021, where they were part of USA's unsuccessful attempts at Olympic qualifying, it's new beginnings for them in 2022 as they aim to put Princeton right back on the 3x3 map.

In his World Tour debut, Isaiah Wilkerson also impressed to add more scoring punch for Princeton who issued a reminder that they are back to their scary best.

Antwerp's semi-final curse continues

Ok, we can't be too critical of the Belgians after they played the whole tournament without a sub but, still, they again fell in the semis.

After four semi-final finishes in their World Tour debut season last year, Antwerp were out to prove they can go all the way and they impressively beat Riga in the quarters through a defensive masterclass before falling short to eventual champs Ub in the semis.

Thibaut Vervoort proved season season two of the hottest show on TV was better than the original as he scored a tournament leading 40 points in just 4 games. He shot an insane 43% from 2.

The 24-year-old made the impossible seem easy as he makes a serious play for best player alive status.

But to truly get there he needs to guide Antwerp to a title. They are excused for now, but the pressure will soon build for them to break their drought.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by FIBA3x3 (@fiba3x3)

'Robin' puts his cape on

Powerhouse Riga had a tough time in the season opener. The Latvians were knocked out in the quarters after just one win from three games. But it was a gutsy effort missing Olympic gold medalists Edgars Krumins as Riga played without a sub.

They managed to stay afloat through Nauris Miezis with the No.1 player in the world proving once again he can be the best player on the court any time he pleases. 

The 6ft. 3in (1.9m) Miezis had to step up and he did exactly that. Not for the first time, Miezis put the cape on without his fellow superhero and delivered a one-man exhibition, including an insane 15-point explosion where he outscored Tokyo Dime by himself!

It could be a bumpy start to the season for Riga but Miezis, with his ball wizardry and clutch gene, should be able to keep them highly competitive.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by FIBA3x3 (@fiba3x3)

Look out, Vienna are emerging

There has been a lot of interest over who might be the breakout team in 2022. With Liman legend Stefan Stojacic taking charge, Vienna - formerly Graz - were a popular pick to make a leap and they looked the goods in Utsunomiya.

The Austrians displayed impressive lockdown D to be the top defensive team in the competition, conceding just 15 points per game.

But to make a serious jump, Vienna will have to find more scoring support for star Filip Kramer, who had to shoulder the offensive burden in Utsunomiya. It cost them dearly against Amsterdam in the quarters with their D able to stifle the Dutch Masters but Kramer scored 6 of the team's 12 points with Vienna unable to hit a two.

Still, the signs are promising and Vienna should be able to build from their encouraging start in the season opener.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by @3x3vienna

Ruffin delivers an A+ performance

Utsunomiya has been the site of many classic dunk contests over the years and add this to the list.

Brandon Ruffin took home the Ashikaga Bank Dunk Contest after winning a sick dunk off against legend Rafal 'Lipek' Lipinski. They pulled out all the tricks including flying high over TikTok stars like they had wings attached.

But it was American 'B-Ruff' who was the last samurai standing and he took home the $4,000 cheque to set the early standard in 2022. If you haven't already, sit back and enjoy the highlights.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by FIBA3x3 (@fiba3x3)

FIBA