3×3 PREMIER.EXE hopes to capitalize on game’s inclusion in Tokyo Olympics, broaden popularity

by

Staff Writer

With an optimistic outlook, the 3×3 PREMIER.EXE begins its fourth season on Saturday.

What’s more, the new season tips off with the hope of gaining more recognition and attention after the sport was recently added to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games by the International Olympic Committee.

“There’s been 460 (3×3) tournaments, from fun, amateur-level ones to top-level ones, from Hokkaido to Okinawa, in the last three years,” league commissioner Takaaki Nakamura said during a news conference on Friday in Tokyo. “As the game has been included in the Olympics now, we would like to accelerate promoting (our league).”

The 3×3 Premier league is officially endorsed by FIBA, basketball’s world governing body. The league has expanded from 12 teams to 18 teams this year, while increasing the number of conferences from two to three at the same time.

Yusuke Okada, a shooting guard for the B. League’s Kyoto Hannaryz and owner of the Dime team in the 3×3 Premier circuit, echoed Nakamura’s outlook, saying 3×3 basketball’s inclusion in the Olympics will be a catalyst to promote the sport.

Okada, a former Japan men’s national team player who also competes in the 3×3 Premier league, said that 3×3 is completely different than the conventional five-man conventional game, and because you are required to have more versatility and speed in the 3×3 game, Japanese players have the potential for more success against international competition.

“It’s not an impossible dream to accomplish winning a medal at the Tokyo Games,” Okada insisted.

The Japan men’s 3×3 team is currently 10th in the FIBA rankings (48th for the traditional five-man game). The women’s team is No. 15 (13th in the full-court game).

Okada said that Japan and the 3×3 Premier league would “absolutely” need to bring in more top-level B. League players to advertise the league and develop the game throughout the country, although these efforts would require understanding and cooperation from B. League clubs.

Asked what names in the B. League, Japan’s top men’s circuit, would fit in the 3×3 game, Okada referred to players with versatility and physical strength such as SeaHorses Mikawa slasher Makoto Hiejima, Alvark Tokyo guard Daiki Tanaka and Tochigi Brex sharpshooter Takatoshi Furukawa.

Okada said that Chiba Jets point guard Yuki Togashi would be interesting to watch in the 3×3 circuit, and even though he’s only 167 cm, he has exceptional on-on-one skills.

Looking beyond the B. League, Okada added that youngsters like Yuta Watanabe of George Washington University, and Tsukuba University’s Yudai Baba, who was the only collegiate player on the Japan national squad for the recent East Asia Championship in Nagano, could be solid contributors in the 3×3 game.

Bikramjit Gill, who led the Hamamatsu team — which plays as the Agleymina team in the 3×3 Premier league — to the runner-up finish at last year’s FIBA 3×3 World Tour Finals in Abu Dhabi, said that because you have to play offense and defense harder, he thinks it is better to have all-around players who are about the same height for the 3×3 game.

“In my personal opinion, if you have players that are 6-5 (196 cm), 6-6 (198 cm), if you have a team that’s all the same size, and when you are switching on defense, there’s no mismatches,” said the 200-cm Canadian, who also plays for the Kagoshima Rebnise, who are moving down to the B. League third division after a season in the second flight. “If you are a point guard, it’s hard (because) it’s easy to set a pick when you have a point guard on you. It’s easy. And if it’s a big, you can just beat him down because he’s so slow. So top teams in the world, they are all the same size.”

When it was recently announced that the 3×3 game would be included as an Olympic sport, some NBA players commented on this big development. Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James said that it is a great thing.

Okada said that it would be positive if NBA players participate in the 3×3 tournament at the Tokyo Games and help generate greater interest in the half-court version of the game.

He also revealed that he wants to see the world’s best player compete.

“He’s an invincible player but he will be even more invincible (in the 3×3 game),” Okada said of LeBron with a smile. “Because he’s really great in one-on-one (situations) and is physically strong.”

The 3×3 Premier opening weekend will be held at a shopping mall in Tachikawa, Tokyo, on Saturday and Sunday. The league will hold games at 12 different locations this season, which is scheduled to conclude with the playoffs in Roppongi Hills in September.