Cloudy skies and partly drizzle. The weather in Graz was not at its best on Friday. And yet: Graz’s Schlossberg was lively in the afternoon. Young and old made the pilgrimage to the legendary UNESCO World Heritage Site to watch the first games of the 3×3 European Basketball Championship. In casemates, old and rustic fortress vaults, the women’s duel between France and Switzerland heralded the tournament. The teams were euphorically introduced under white artificial fog and red spotlights. There were also a few bars of local music from both countries. “Until now I’ve only been here for the Christmas market, it’s incredible to see casemates like this,” said Grazi’s Nina Krisper, who had to deal with the Austrians in the first round against Estonia on Saturday. The men of Austria had to deal with Hungary at the beginning (after the editorial deadline).
Otherwise, the reasons for watching the European Championship are complicated. While many have come to cheer for their country, some others want to learn about the fledgling sport. The hall was really full before the Austrians’ first game.
A young sport with a lot of potential
3×3 basketball has been part of the Olympic program since the 2021 summer games in Tokyo. As the name suggests, the game is played in teams of three players. However, unlike five-player basketball, there is only one basket that both teams must shoot into. A hit from close range is worth one point, long shots two. Due to the high intensity, the playing time of the game is only ten minutes.
The simplified form of the game comes from streetball, which has always been practiced in American parks. In any case, the Austrian Basketball Association would like to push 3×3 further. After last year’s Olympic qualifying tournament in Tokyo, this is the second major event to be held in the Styrian capital. “Graz and 3×3, which fits like a ball in a basket. Graz is young and urban and is now the federal capital of 3×3,” explains Graz city councilor Kurt Hohensinner (ÖVP).
A total of twelve women’s and men’s teams will fight for the European Championship in Graz Kasematten. Camilla Neumann and Nina Krisper, the two local heroes of the women’s red-white-red series, will go hunting for medals together with their teammates Anja Fuchs-Robetin and Mackendra König. The men’s team consists of Matthias Linortner, Filip Krämer, Nico Kaltenbrunner and Martin Trmal.
Austrians are outsiders
Both the women and men completed tournaments last weekend to get the finishing touches. The women lined up for the final lineup at a warm-up tournament in Voiron, France. All you have to do is be without Sarah Sagerer again due to an acute foot injury.
The composition of the men’s team has also been fixed for a long time. However, Serbian superstar and player coach Stefan Stojacic, who is only allowed to play in Challenger and Masters tournaments, has to pass. At the European Championship, however, he wants to support his teammates from the stands.
However, other nations are favorites. The challenger for the women’s title is Spain and Serbia for the men. Both traveled to Graz as defending champions. “We are in very good shape. It’s a 3×3 season, we’ve been to one tournament after another, we have a good rhythm and we want to go far from the group stage. Hopefully the experience of the past year and a half will help us in that,” Matthias Linortner is skilled.