Both men and women’s Romanian national teams showed they will be a force to be reckoned with in Moscow at the upcoming FIBA 3×3 World Championships on 5-8 June, after winning the first stage of the Sport Arena Streetball quest on 16-18 May.
157 teams gathered in Bucharest, the Mecca of 3×3, to kick off the 10-year anniversary season of the Sport Arena Streetball Quest. The event featured a lot of familiar faces as a generation of players has grown up with the event and gone from the U14, to the U18 and now the +18 categories. The towering Bianca Elena Blanaru – who represented Romania at the 2012 FIBA 3×3 U18 World Championships in Alcobendas, Spain – is making her presence known in the women’s category and the 2013 FIBA 3×3 U18 World Championships silver medallist (Free-Throw Pursuit) Dimitris Rasty came to visit.
“This is where I met half of my friends,” said the teenager who, heartbroken, had to decline participation due to SAT exam preparations.
But the players whom everyone came to see are those who will have the privilege to represent the country in less than three weeks in Moscow at the 2014 FIBA 3×3 World Championships. The voluble Angel Santana and the athletic Catalin Vlaicu are back for a new campaign after their 10th place in Athens two years ago at the first-ever FIBA 3×3 World Championships. Ambitions are high as the team features the muscular Bogdan ‘Popeye’ Popescu and the versatile Stefan Vasile, who have represented Romania in 5×5 events before.
The team’s nerves were tested in the quarter-finals but after clearing a 12-4 deficit, the ‘Tricolore’ never looked back and easily defeated Team ‘Easy Pay System’ in the final.
“Catalin is a strong guy and has a good feel for 3×3,” the #18 3×3 player in the world Santana told FIBA.com.
“Popescu is an animal and Stefan is a good athlete who can do a little bit of everything including defense, something I don’t really like to do… I think we have a good all-around team and we are going to give trouble to a lot of teams at this event.”
The women’s final was a real thriller with Team ‘Pufoasele’ surviving a long-distance game-winning attempt from the ‘RA Devils’ at the buzzer. National Team Members featured on both sides as the sharp-shooting Andra Haas and the speedy Florina Diaconu prevailed against the slashing Anca Sipos. The women’s national team nurtures ambitions in Moscow as they will also feature Marquette University guard Cristina Bigica.
If you had any doubts about the players’ motivation, Haas aka ‘Foxy’ (for her hair colour and overall speed) insisted that “it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
“We can’t wait to be there. We will play with attitude. Doesn’t matter if we play [Ann Wauters] or Diana Taurasi, they only have two hands and two legs. We are all equal,” the former #1 women’s player in the world added.
The #2 seed Romania’s men will spearhead an extremely tough Pool B with Lithuania, Russia, Venezuela, Argentina and Qatar.
The #1 seed Romania’s women will face Switzerland, Uruguay, Belgium, Italy and Syria in Pool A.
Log onto russia2014.fiba.com for more information about the 2014 FIBA 3×3 World Championships.