The FIBA 3X3 Europe Cup tournament arrived in Jerusalem at the Sultan’s Pool this week as the Israel Men’s and Women’s National Teams will not only be looking to win the tournament but also earn a berth to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
The Men’s blue-and-white have a battle-tested squad that includes Hapoel Holon forward Netanel Artzi, Hapoel Tel Aviv guard Gil Beni, Tomer Asayag of Hapoel Afula and swingman Joaquin Szuchman, who has been playing his trade with Hapoel Beersheba.
Admission is free and the games will run until Thursday night when both the men’s and women’s playoff clashes will be played.
Israel National Team heads into decisive matchups
Just as we head into the decisive matchups, The Jerusalem Post sat down with Szuchman, who has become somewhat of an Israeli icon in 3X3 play.
“I’m super excited,” Szuchman began. “This is a top tournament and we have waited for this all summer to play in Jerusalem. We’re counting down the minutes until we take the court. Playing at the Sultan’s Pool will no doubt be special after having played all throughout Europe. We will have our fans, friends, and families in the stands, it’s going to be great.”
The 28-year-old also spoke about the goals of the 3X3 National Team.
“If I have learned one thing, it is that anything can happen and every team can win. We want to get through the group stage and advance to the quarterfinals, that’s the first goal and if we can achieve that, then the sky’s the limit with the eye on medaling.”
This summer, the Israel Youth National Teams had successful runs, with both the men’s and women’s teams remaining in Division A while the Under-20 team took home the silver medal. There is no question that Szuchman, who was born in Argentina and moved to Israel as a child, and the 3X3 team want to add to the terrific showing from the other squads.
“We would like to be able to add to the great results and we also want to try and showcase this sport as well. There is no question that this summer was important for Israeli basketball and we know that the best result would be to win the Europe Cup at home. Perhaps with the fans and support we will be able to achieve that and take yet another step in putting the sport at the forefront.”
Meir Tapiro, one of Israel’s greatest-ever basketball players, is the head coach of the 3X3 team and he is someone who influenced Szuchman.
“I grew up watching him. The fact that the coach was a former player and experienced what we are experiencing now is a huge gift to be able to learn from him.”
3X3 has been a sport that has gained traction over the years and is now a mainstay among the many disciplines while also being an Olympic Sport.
“The sport has featured in countries throughout the world and became part of the Olympics at the last Games in Tokyo, which has allowed the sport to take an even bigger jump around the globe. We have been playing 3X3 in Israel for many years and was brought to the country by Ilan Kovelsky along with Eran Atia and we have taken the sport to even higher levels in the past couple of years.
“We have taken astronomical steps since last summer and the goal is to continue to develop as a country.”
The sport may not necessarily have the biggest names in the sport, but it definitely has players who are making the sport that much more popular through hard work and dedication.
“Any player who wants to take part in this sport is great and it doesn’t matter if they are so-called big names or not. That doesn’t concern me. What does concern me are those who want to take part in the sport and help publicize and keep advancing the game while reaching the goals that we have set.
“For me, this sport is of the utmost importance and I had a very short break after the regular basketball season where I went on a trip for about a week with my wife. Otherwise I was in a different city almost every weekend playing in a tournament, practicing, training and helping develop the sport. I really want to thank this sport for giving me so many incredible experiences this summer and hopefully there will be more to come.”
Szuchman was the flag-bearer at the European Games along with runner Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, which was one of the highlights in his career
“This was the most exciting and emotional moment for me as an athlete. To walk into a stadium with 30,000 people and to be at the front of the delegation was something I will take with me for the rest of my life.”
Hapoel Beersheba, Szuchman’s club team, has been very supportive of his participation with the 3X3 National Team, which is something that he doesn’t take for granted.
“I have to say that from the coach Lior Lubin to the management of the club have been amazing about my participation in the sport. They have given me freedom to do as I need and it’s true synergy that things are so good. Beersheba is one of the reasons why the sport has been such a big part of my life and that I have been successful doing it. The club gives me this option and I am so thankful to them that they support me in this endeavor and without it I wouldn't be able to succeed.”
Szuchman will be starting his second season with Beersheba and it certainly looks like he has found a true home after many years with Hapoel Gilboa/Galil.
“The truth is that on every team that I have been with it seems that I have found a new home, so to speak. Every place that I have been, that has been the case, but there is no question that Beersheba is one of the warmest due to the quality of the people at the club. It’s going to be fun to begin my second season with the hope that there will be many more to come.”
Last season, Szuchman was part of the Beersheba team that won the Balkan League championship which was a thrilling moment for everyone involved.
“I was very proud to be a part of the team that won the club’s first title and it was very, very big. We were all so happy.”
As for this season, the swingman has some goals in sight with Beesheba.
“There was a feeling that we missed out on finishing in the upper half of the playoffs and I feel that this is the main mission for us this coming season.”
Szuchman has also been a part of the 5X5 senior Israel National Team in the past and would be honored to be a part of any team that represents the country.
“Anything that is connected with the Israel National Team is something that I am thrilled to do and if they call on me to play, for the 3X3 for 5X5, I’d be happy to be a part of it.”