BOCAUE, Bulacan -- Defending champions and top seed Serbia got off to an impressive start in their 2018 FIBA 3x3 World Cup campaign on Saturday at the Philippine Arena.
Serbia, who boasts a 2-0 lead in Pool A, first surpassed a tough test against a gritty Netherlands squad, 21-17, before edging New Zealand in their second game, 22-13.
As Serbia guns for an astonishing fourth world championship in 3x3 competition, one of the athletes to watch out for in Manila is Dusan Bulut.
Bulut is a legendary figure in 3x3 basketball. The versatile scorer is a two-time 3x3 World Cup MVP and was formerly ranked the number one player in the world. During Serbia's debut on Saturday, Bulut scored a total of 15 points, including nine against New Zealand. The 32-year-old point guard isn't gun shy in trying to bring home another championship to his home country.
"[The] second game was much easier for us compared to our first one. Little bit stiff from New Zealand -- they were very powerful and strong," assessed Bulut after their second match. "But they were not able to adjust to our speed and we were able to run by them. That's the crucial factor in the win."
Serbia will certainly face tough competition in their quest for another 3x3 title. Among those trying to claim their throne are second seed Slovenia and third seed Russia. Not to mention, the likes of Latvia, Canada, Poland, and Estonia, are all equally capable of winning the crown.
But Bulut is also keeping a close eye on the home team.
"I was not able to watch because we were warming up," he said as their matchup against New Zealand was scheduled right after the Philippines' game against Brazil. "But based on the crowd, I can imagine what they did because the crowd was cheering wildly. I will probably watch the replay of the game."
The Filipinos were able to flex their muscles in their opener against Brazil, winning 15-7. The strong contingent of Roger Pogoy, Troy Rosario, Christian Stanhardinger, and Stanley Pringle, made their debut in style before falling short, 17-21, in a physical battle against Mongolia in their second game.
"I hope to see them in the finals," Bulut said referring to the Philippine team.
As Serbia and Bulut aim for 3x3 immortality, they plan to take on all challenges, including the Philippines.