The third edition of the FIBA 3×3 Asia Cup is set to tip off from the 27th of April – 01st of May in Shenzen, China. Sri Lanka, who were denied a direct ticket to the main draw with the downfall of the federation ranking, will first feature in the qualifying draw in the both the men`s and women`s categories.
Sri Lanka who had an impressive run in 3×3 last year, beating Japan for the 1st time in their history in any format of the game, stepped down the federation ranking in 2018. As a result, Sri Lanka were drafted to play the qualifying draw. The men`s team has been drawn in Pool A in the qualifying draw while the women`s team is in Pool B.
Apart from the added pressure of playing the qualifiers, the biggest challenge for the Lankan lads and lasses would be the return to competitive 3×3 basketball after a long break. Sri Lanka last played competitive 3×3 basketball in December 2017 at the previous edition of the tournament.
During this time, one of the premier local tournaments in the domestic arena the Colombo Super League (CSL) was played. The CSL was played in the 5on5 format.
Hence, it will be a tough ask not only to return to competitive 3×3 basketball after a lengthy cut-off but to switch from 5on5 to the shorter version of the game.
There is no change in the men`s team which represented Sri Lanka in 2017, it will be the same four lads who will don the national colors in Shenzen, China. Sudesh Paiva, Timothy Nithushan, Clinton Thevakumar and Arnold Brent will fill the four slots of the team.
In terms of experience, it is fair to say that all four do hold adequate amounts under their belts. Both Sudesh Paiva and Timothy Nithushan represented Sri Lanka in the 2017 edition of 3×3 World Cup as well.
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Paiva`s ability to grab rebounds and to block shots in the defense will help keep the team in the game. Nithushan is known for his quick foot-work, penetrating through the lanes to finish off near the rim.
To support the above, the other two slots have been filled by the Thevakumar brothers, Clinton and Arnold.
Clinton Thevakumar, known for his game sense and shooting from outside the arc, will play a handy role in the Asia Cup. Younger brother, Arnold Brent, ranked No.01 in the 3×3 men`s category in the island will add the missing flavor to the side. Though he is young, he brings a lot of experience to the table as he has been a part of the national side from the U18 age category in both formats.
In comparison to 2017 edition, the selectors have made a couple of changes in the team line-up. Anjalee Ekanayake has been bought back into the side while young, Lubna Morseth has earned a national call-up for 3×3. Apart from these two new players, the other two slots will be filled by Solange Gunawijaya and Imesha Thathsarani.
The team looks a formidable outfit, a combination of experience and talent. Both Anjalee and Solange have represented Sri Lanka internationally which will act as a plus factor when going head-to-head against the big names of Asia. Solange`s height factor, will, without a doubt play an important role for Sri Lanka in securing the rebounds and keeping the opposition off the paint in defense.
Imesha Thathsarani, who was ranked the No.01 3×3 women`s player in Sri Lanka has adequate experience in the format. Thathsarani was also a part of the FIBA fast track program where she benefitted from a series of international training camps. Imesha`s shooting from outside the arc and control of the game will be the key areas on her part.
Young Morseth, who is equally good in both offense and defense will look to play a supporting role to Solange.
The Final Say
The Selectors have done justice to the players. Retaining Sri Lanka`s top two players in both categories, they have also balanced the sides with ample experience. Sri Lanka will be eyeing a ticket to the main-draw with a junior-senior combination, an equally spread mixture which will play divided roles unique to each player inside each team.
Apart from the long halt in the shorter format of the game, Sri Lanka is well prepared to compete against the heavy-weights in Asia. It will go down to the lads and lasses finally, to execute the game plans and if they do so, Sri Lanka should do well during the tour.