Saskatoon is going to be the centre of the basketball world in July.
Tourism Saskatoon announced Wednesday they have secured the rights to the FIBA 3×3 basketball World Tour Masters event.
The tournament features 12 teams from around the world, with 150 countries vying for a spot in the prestigious international competition.
“The atmosphere with the amount of people around just creates its own environment,” said Michael Linklater, a former national champion with the U of S Huskies basketball team.
“You have to attend one of these events to really experience it.”
It’ll be hard to miss: the outdoor event is set to take place at the intersection of 4th Avenue and 21st Street on July 15 and 16.
Linklater will attempt to lead Saskatoon’s own 3×3 team to their third World Tour championship. They won the 2014 Chicago event and again in 2016 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The team features Linklater’s Huskies teammates Michael Lieffers and Nolan Bruhdel, as well as a new addition – Edmonton native Steve Sir – who’s returning from a 10-year professional career in Europe.
The three Huskies veterans are all ranked in the 3×3 top 20 players in the world.
Tourism Saskatoon has secured the rights to the World Tour Masters for the next three years, providing a big opportunity for basketball to become a focus in the prairies.
The next three years will also mark the last tournaments for Linklater’s Team Saskatoon.
He said they were considering retirement after the 2016 championship, but the team can’t give up the chance to claim another in front of a hometown crowd.
Not a typical game of hoops
The sport of 3×3 basketball is gaining popularity around the world and, according to FIBA, is on the verge of becoming a summer Olympic event.
The game features a half-court, with teams allowed three players on the court and one substitute on the sidelines.
The shot clock is only 12 seconds, half the time of a five-on-five game, and the ball is considered “live” after each basket.
The defensive team only needs to clear the ball to the three-point line before turning to offence.
“It’s a lot faster,” Linklater said. “You have to be versatile. You have to be able to defend, you have to be able to score and you have to be able to rebound.”
He added since the tournament is played outdoors, players need to factor in the wind for their shots.
Team Saskatoon has already been testing the corner at 4th Avenue and 21st Street, and Linklater said the buildings should provide some cover.
“We’ve been dribbling the ball every time we walk through there,” he said.
— Chris Vandenbreekel (@Vandecision) February 1, 2017