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Streetballers getting shot at Olympic glory

By SUN XIAOCHEN | China Daily | Updated: 2018-10-26 08:57
John Vidal of Team Core from the Philippines, goes up for a shot during the final of the HoopBattle Championship that featured 16 men's teams and eight women's squads in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Revamped national 3x3 tourney will provide deeper talent pool

Boasting upgrades in organization and promotion, the national 3x3 basketball championships are paving the way for China's best streetballers to share the Olympic spotlight.

Still basking in the glow of the national team's amateur-driven success in 3x3 at the Asian Games, the Chinese Basketball Association has pledged to expand the talent search with a revamped championships format to help grassroots ballers shine on the international stage.

The National 3x3 Basketball Challenge, which was launched last year, has been expanded to a yearlong program this season, starting with local preliminaries that open in 29 provinces and municipalities next month.

Regional finals from the six conferences will be played next summer.

All conference winners in men's and women's open and youth groups will slug it out at the national finals in October 2019 to compete for spots on China's 2020 Tokyo Olympics team and fight for a total prize pool of 10 million yuan ($1.4 million).

The 3x3 half-court version of basketball is attracting more and more participants around the world, drawing mainstream attention for its fast-pace transition play and emphasis on individual skills.

The format has been accepted as an official event for the Tokyo Games, where the world's top eight men's and women's teams, including host Japan, will compete for medals.

The new national challenge is expected to boost participation as it channels ordinary fans from street courts to the Olympics showcase, said CBA secretary general Bai Xilin.

"The tournament is of great significance in exploring new approaches to identify talents and promote basketball at the grassroots level," Bai said in Beijing on Thursday. "The way we draft talent for national representatives through the tournament reflects the mass-participation spirit of 3x3."

Having been approved by world governing body FIBA as an Olympic ranking event, the challenge offers points based on the number of games and stages teams play throughout the season.

The more FIBA points the winning team's players accumulate collectively, the higher China ranks in qualification for the Tokyo Games.

"The result at the Asian Games has proved the new tournament a great success, and the pathway to Tokyo will for sure stimulate even greater enthusiasm," said Chai Wensheng, director of CBA's 3x3 department.

After the inaugural season of the national challenge, which lasted six months, the CBA built its four-player national squad for the Asiad based on the men's championship squad.

Huang Wenwei, Xiao Hailiang and Zeng Bingqiang, all amateurs on last year's national champion team from Dongguan, Guangdong province, led China to the Asiad title in August.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine wearing the national team uniform on top of the podium in my favorite sport," said Huang, a teacher at Guangzhou Sports University.

"The tournament made it a reality and I would love to see more ballers like me make it to the international stage."

Last season's championship attracted more than 8,400 teams involving more than 32,000 players, making it a marketable event that appeals to sponsors and broadcasters nationwide, said Infront China, CBA's promoting partner.

"The market potential of the tournament is underestimated," said Zhao Feng, managing director of Infront China.

"With the new season engaging more participants, thus more families and more neighborhoods, we are confident it will attract more business partners and generate more TV hours."

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