Amsterdam’s cozy basketball arena Gaschoder explodes when local player Worthy de Jong squeezes between two Serbian rivals and scores in spectacular fashion. A DJ on the court’s roof turns the music up to the max, and a microphone operator (“MC host”) on the edge of the court runs out of superlatives to praise the 35-year-old star player in 3×3 basketball.
In the former gas tank, Amsterdam saw its first weekend with the organization of the Fiba World Tour Masters, a world series of eighteen 3×3 basketball tournaments. At the Westergas site, several tall men in the crowded stands looked out onto a small court that had the atmosphere of a street basketball court.
During the 100th edition of the 3×3 World Tour that has been in existence since 2012, the Amsterdam team – which also plays as TeamNL – was unable to perform in the quarterfinals against the best UB team from Serbia. A strong Amsterdam team (with captain De Jong as well as Jan Driessen, Julian Jaring and Norbert Thielsen) lost 17-15 to a UB team, which included the best player in the world in Serbian Strahinja Stojacic. The Amsterdam team finished the tournament in sixth place, and the surprise victory went to Vienna.
Since switching from traditional basketball to the 3×3 version last September, Worthy De Jong has made an incredible impression in the sport where players play on half a basketball court with one basket. In the player rankings, De Jong, who is 1.94 meters tall, is ranked fourth in the world rankings, after three Serbs. “I feel like I’ve been born again,” De Jong said last weekend. ‘3×3 gives me the energy I was looking for. “In the end, I didn’t enjoy my 5v5 game enough,” said the 118-cap international who has been a sensation at ZZ Leiden for years.
“The game is completely different,” says De Jong. “The density is much higher.” You play short ten-minute games in which you can’t hide. You’re really in the game all the time, which makes it much more physically demanding. Everything is also different tactically.
The main goal of De Jong and his teammates is to qualify for next year’s Olympic Games. “Getting to Paris will be the icing on the cake for me,” says de Jong. And in Tokyo, 3×3 basketball was included in the Olympic calendar for the first time in 2021. At that time, even without De Jong, the Dutch team finished fifth.
About the author
Natasja Weber writes De Volkskrant About Olympic sports such as hockey, swimming and equestrian sports.
Three exciting weeks follow the live placement in Paris. On November 1, national coach Arun Ruigi’s team should be among the top three countries in the world. The Netherlands (currently No. 4) is locked in a special battle with China (3) for third place. Serbia (1) and the United States (2) can no longer be tracked, and in the meantime Lithuania (5) is getting closer to each other.
It is very remarkable that one of the best Dutch 3×3 players, Demio van der Horst (eighth in the world), has been playing on the World Tour for a Chinese team since April: Futian. With his good performance, Van der Horst collects points for the Netherlands, but he also helps his Chinese teammates get points. Through lucrative contracts, Chinese 3×3 teams have been able to attract many top foreign players to raise the level of their players. Everything with the aim of making a good impression at the Olympics.
From Serbia, where the Chinese teams’ training base is located, Van der Horst said by phone that the competition between the Netherlands and China is a “strange situation.” “Last week I won a tournament in Croatia with my three Chinese teammates, so they scored a lot of points and I scored fewer points for the Netherlands. But as an athlete I try not to look at that too much. I was brought in by Futian to make my team better, and that’s what I do.” .
The 1.95m Amsterdam player always dreamed of playing abroad. “The fact that I now have this opportunity in my fifth season as a 3×3 basketball player is fantastic. I had no doubts about the financial offer,” says Van der Horst, 32, with a laugh. What bothers him is that he does not have a visa to play. In China, he therefore had to miss five tournaments. “Fortunately, we play a lot in other Asian countries and in Europe.”
Dutch national coach Ruigi was disappointed when Van der Horst swapped the Amsterdam club for Chinese club Futian last spring. I wasn’t happy about that, Demio is a very important player for us. But for him it was a financially attractive offer.
Worthy de Jong also does not blame his colleague in the Dutch national team. Demeo has worked hard to get such a great contract. It’s his choice. He left the door open as to whether De Jong himself aspires to a Chinese adventure. ‘I don’t know. I didn’t really think about that.
The next three weeks will be about collecting points. The Amsterdam team’s first stop will be next week in Qatar. If the Netherlands falls out of the top three on November 1, qualifying tournaments will follow in 2024.
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