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Bulut’s mentoring fuels red hot Qatar at FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament
GRAZ (Austria) – A confident Qatar drained two-pieces like free throws and collected dimes like a parking meter in a spectacular opening day of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Austria.
Does that feel familiar? It should because these swaggy Qataris played very much like 3x3's GOAT Dusan Bulut, who has been mentoring the national team in recent months.
Qatar's players have obviously been listening intently to Bulut's guidance after a standout Day 1 in Graz where they moved a step closer to their Olympic dream after an unbeaten start in Pool C.
They comfortably beat Dominican Republic 17-12 before laying the smack down with a crushing 21-12 victory over much-hyped Philippines to underline they mean business like a contestant on The Apprentice.
The influence of Bulut aka 'Mr Bullutproof' was most evident in Qatar's star Abdulrahman Saad, who topped the scoring charts on Day 1 with 22 points and made sorry defenders sad on the court.
With a quick first step and range deeper than 5G, Saad hit six shots from beyond the arc to lit a fuse in Graz much like Bulut has done in 3x3 over the years.
The 11th seed Qatar was seen as a dark horse contender to grab a ticket to Tokyo but now they must be rated a genuine chance.
They have lifted a level – which probably shouldn't be surprising having learned 3x3 wisdom from the grand master himself over the past two months.
Bulut, who is not playing in Austria because Serbia has already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, has been coaching Qatar during the past couple of months in hectic workouts to ensure they were primed for an assault in Graz.
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The Serb superstar has long had a love affair with the beautiful Middle East country and decided to give back to a nation obsessed with 3x3.
"I like Qatar very much," Bulut said at the recent Doha Masters. "Feels like a second home. I've found myself a new family (in Qatar). It's a pleasure."
The powerfully built 24-year-old Saad, who is emerging as a 3x3 superstar, said Bulut has had a major impact on the team.
"He's been great for us. He's helped us a lot for the last two months," he said. "We prepared and we played a lot of games for this."
Even though Qatar has every reason to feel confident and content, Saad said his team were focused on their remaining pool games against higher seeds France and Slovenia on Friday.
"We can't be too happy. We aim high and we want to achieve our goals," he said.
Inspired by their mentor, Qatar might be back to their glory days in 3x3, when they won the second edition of the FIBA 3x3 World Cup back in 2014. Erfan Ali Saeed was on that team and is now in Graz, looking to bring Qatar to the Tokyo Olympics.