Australia excited for return to Singapore as favorites in FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup 2023
SINGAPORE (Singapore) - In the world of the FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup, Australia are consistently expected of excellence.
Over the last four 3x3 Asia Cups, both the men’s and women’s teams secured podium spots with the men’s team winning three consecutive championships and the women’s team winning two.
"It’s always special representing your country. Every time you run out on the court, you get that same buzz of adrenaline."
Therefore, whenever they step on the court, they are usually going to be the favorites. This will still be the case for both Marena Whittle and Daniel Johnson, expected key players for the women’s and men’s teams of Australia for the upcoming FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup 2023 that will be held in Singapore from March 29 to April 2.
"We believe we left some basketball behind in Singapore last year after losing in the gold medal match, which has stayed with us all year."
"There [will be] a lot of talented teams," said Johnson about the pressure of playing for the flag. "We have to execute at a high level to be successful. There is some pressure but mostly excited about being able to compete."
For the men, it is the pressure of coming in as the three-time defending champions. On the women’s side, there’s also an added dimension of redemption after ending up in second place last year.
"There is always pressure when representing your country," added Whittle. "We believe we left some basketball behind in Singapore last year after losing in the gold medal match, which has stayed with us all year. The pressure for us leads to an exciting brand of basketball, and we love playing in those environments."
Of course, what comes along with that pressure is the immense pride one gets from being among the select few to represent the nation. that pride is never taken lightly by the cream of the crop of Australian athletes.
"It’s always a privilege to represent my country, and a stage like the 3x3 Asia cup is more important than ever to establish Australia as a dangerous powerhouse for 3x3 basketball in the region," said Whittle.
"It’s always special representing your country. Every time you run out on the court, you get that same buzz of adrenaline," said Johnson.
This won’t be the first rodeo for both players. As mentioned, Whittle was a part of the team that played in the previous 3x3 Asia Cup that made it to the Finals and is hoping that a return to this year’s squad will bear sweeter fruits than their last time in Singapore.
"Last year’s 3x3 Asia Cup was extreme," she said. "We didn’t play any qualifying tournaments together as a team and some teammates hadn’t played 3x3 at all, so the last tournament was a learning experience for our squad."
"We were able to accomplish great things in little time last year and having that under our belt leading into the 3x3 Asia Cup 2023 prepares us for an exciting and hopefully successful year."
Meanwhile, Johnson has elevated his status as a 3x3 "rookie" from last year and is looking forward to have some fun once again - while also aiming for another title, of course.
"[The last 3x3 Asia Cup] was a great experience. It was my first time playing a 3x3 tournament and I really enjoyed the format," he said. "I like the physicality and the intensity and the location was amazing, too."
"[It] was so much fun. Just being able to compete against the best teams in Asia and challenging ourselves to try and win consecutive 3x3 Asia Cups."
Not only are these players looking forward to return to Singapore and playing their best to meet the expectations set for Australia 3x3 basketball, they are also looking forward to matching up against some of the best in Asia in particular.
In particular, they have their eyes set on facing some "rivals" from the past.
"Obviously there is an existing rivalry with New Zealand and we had some great battles last time around so I’m looking forward to that match up again," said Johnson.
Whittle also named New Zealand as a team she was looking forward to playing against ("[They] are our neighbors to the east and are always tough competitors as well"), but the obvious target are the defending champions on the women’s side of the competition.
"I’m particularly looking forward to playing against China," expressed Whittle. "We lost twice to them last year and I believe with the training and experience behind us we can compete even better than we did last time around."