x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UAE players hit courts, hoping it leads to jail

The finals of the Red Bull King of the Rock take place on 27 June and the winner will compete on the courts of Alcatraz, San Francisco's famous prison island.

UAE basketballers practise to win the honour of representing the UAE in the global one-on-one competition, Red Bull King of the Rock, in Dubai. The winner will be flown to Alcatraz off San Francisco to compete with 63 others for the world title. Satish Kumar / The National
UAE basketballers practise to win the honour of representing the UAE in the global one-on-one competition, Red Bull King of the Rock, in Dubai. The winner will be flown to Alcatraz off San Francisco to compete with 63 others for the world title. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // Thirty-two men will battle it out at Dubai Mall tonight for a chance to be sent to the world's most notorious prison.

The winner will be flown to the US along with 63 finalists from around the world to compete at the courts on Alcatraz, San Francisco's famous prison island.

Over the past few weeks, Red Bull's King of the Rock street basketball competition has held knockout qualifying rounds in Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi to whittle down the competition pool.

The final round of the one-on-one competition begins at 8pm on the Dubai Ice Rink.

Oais Al Shabibi, a 21-year-old Emirati, won the Sharjah play-offs and said he couldn't wait for the referee's whistle to blow tonight.

"I'm confident," said Oais, who is 1.95 metres tall. "I have too many friends coming and even people calling me and saying they saw me and they were going to come down and watch."

But he is under no illusion the competition won't be tough. "There are too many good players," Oais said.

He described the five-minute rounds of the competition as long and arduous.

"It's non-stop."

The winner of the Dubai heats, Rey Odhiambo, said he would rather play for 40 minutes in a team than for five minutes one on one.

"It's hard and really tiring. In terms of endurance you've got to have it. If you don't, you're over and done within three minutes," Rey said.

The 29-year-old Kenyan has had to ask for a day off work at Atlantis, The Palm to compete in the qualifying rounds.

Standing 1.98 metres tall, he did not book today off until he won the Dubai heats two weeks ago.

"Last year I had work commitments, so this year I made sure I booked the time off," Rey said.

Former professional player Zack Bajric, 30, a Serbian who grew up in Canada, has played on teams throughout Europe.

At 1.89 metres, Zack said he went up against tough competitors to win the Abu Dhabi heats last weekend.

"Five guys were particularly good and experienced. The competition has been really good," he said.

Zack has been practising every evening, sometimes twice a day, and is well aware of his opponents.

"In Dubai there's a few good players," he said. "They're really young and up and coming."

 

eharnan@thenational.ae