Saskatoon is getting ready to play host to some of the best athletes in the world for a tournament showcasing a new addition to Olympic sports.
A basketball court and two sets of bleachers have been erected at the intersection of 21st Street and Fourth Avenue in preparation for the FIBA 3×3 World Tour Masters in Saskatoon this weekend.
A lot of credit has been given to local basketball star Michael Linklater for making the tournament possible in the city, and organizers and players were excited and ready to go at the press conference on Friday afternoon.
“We’ve proven that we can pull this event together physically and structurally, create an arena in downtown Saskatoon, so that’s perfect,” Tourism Saskatoon CEO Todd Brandt said. “These are great athletes that are coming in.”
Brandt added a lot of people might not be familiar with the three-on-three basketball format, but it still provides a lot of entertainment.
For FIBA, their new slogan “from the streets to the Olympics” is a celebration of a recent success for the 3×3 basketball format, as the game will be a new addition to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“Now, with the Olympic games, things will be getting better and better,” Team Ljubljana player Jasmin Hercegovac said about support for basketball. “But for me personally… you are doing something because you like it. Because you love it.”
Hercegovac and Linklater sat side-by-side at the press conference alongside Todd Brandt, FIBA event manager Ignacio Soriano and Canada Basketball’s manger of domestic development Ron Yeung.
The eagerness from the men at the table was almost as strong as the near 30-degree heat — and despite being set to be opponents during the next couple of days, Hercegovac and Linklater joked and laughed like old friends.
Linklater said at the press conference that he hosted Hercegovac at his home the day before, but they are both looking forward to competing.
“Last night, I turned up the air conditioning so they had a bit of a cold sleep,” Linklater joked.
But beyond the kidding, all of the teams in Saskatoon are gearing up for an exciting and very hot-temperature tournament this weekend. And with this being the first of a multi-year contract to have tournaments in Saskatoon, both FIBA and Tourism Saskatoon are pleased with how things look so far.
“It’s like a perfect set-up,” Ignacio Soriano said. “Good teams, good venue, nice weather… that’s all we need.”