Team Primus Learns From Defeat, Sets Sights On 3x3 U18 National Championship Crown
Aug. 8, 2013 • Colorado Springs, Colo.
When the USA Basketball 3x3 National Championship concluded this past Sunday, the youngest participating women’s team had advanced further than most expected and exited as the tournament’s runner-up.
What Team Primus accomplished served as a friendly reminder that age and experience aren’t everything when it comes to basketball. On the hardwood, what matters most is how one performs on game day.
“We’ve only been a team since last weekend,” Primus’ Napheese Collier said. “We surprised not just ourselves, but other people because I feel like they kind of underestimated us.”
Primus was undefeated in preliminary play (4-0) and finished 5-1 overall and in second place. Having elected to stay in Colorado Springs, Colo., this week to train, the Missouri based squad returns to the U.S. Olympic Training Center Friday for the start of another 3x3 event: the USA Basketball 3x3 U18 National Championship Tournament.
“It’s going to be tougher (this weekend) because the younger kids, I feel like we have a lot more energy and we’re a little quicker,” Primus’ Sophie Cunngham said. “I feel like it’s going to be harder.”
Even after a productive showing at the 3x3 National Championship Tournament, Primus understands they still have plenty to improve on.
“The last game (national championship) we didn’t feel like we left everything on the court,” Cierra Porter said, “and we want to do that every single game because they’re only 10 minutes, so it’s easy to do. Just go hard the whole time.”
In the national championship game Sunday, Primus faced FST-L.I., an opponent they had defeated 15-13, in overtime during their opening game of the tournament. Yet unlike the initial matchup against the Long Island, N.Y., team, FST-L.I. earned revenge, handing Primus their lone loss, 20-15.
“We knew that just because we beat them once, we couldn’t let down because they’re still a strong team,” Cunngham acknowledged. “The first game (against them) we played good. We got inside a lot, a lot of ball movement. But then the last game, we kind of lost what we were doing.
“We started shooting a lot of outside shots. Our energy was down too. It’s frustrating that we lost because we knew we could beat them. Because we did.”
While the defeat was upsetting for Primus, it also has seemed to fuel them, especially considering that the top team based on USA Basketball criteria from this weekend’s U18 3x3 National Championship Tournament will represent the USA at the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship Sept. 26-29 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
“It definitely sucks that we lost,” Collier stated. “But I think that it kind of taught us a lesson that we have to play every game really hard. Otherwise, our dreams could just float away.”
One thing that makes Primus such a formidable unit is the bond they share in embracing their roles. Each team member does one or two things exceptionally well and compliments are passed along regularly.
“You see a lot of teams yell at each other on the court,” Collier said, “and I think that kind of breaks them apart. We do encouraging kind of stuff, so that helps a lot.”
The youngest member of the squad, 14-year-old Alecia (Sug) Sutton states that her biggest role is passing and getting her teammates involved. For Collier, she believes length and versatility are her two best attributes. Rebounding and outside shooting are the areas Porter excels in most, and Cunngham labels herself as the team’s vocal leader and person who brings positive energy to the team.
“When we’re on the court we’re a total different group of girls,” Cunngham said. “We act a lot older than we really are because off the court, we’re goofy and just 16-year-old girls. We get along. It really does help on the court when you have a really good relationship off the court too.”
Already high school and 3x3 teammates, Cunngham and Porter will maintain that status even after their high school careers complete as both have made verbal commitments to attend the University of Missouri beginning in the fall of 2015.
Collier and Sutton are undecided on where they will attend college, but agree the experience with USA Basketball will help them one day reach that level.
“I think it will make me a lot better,” Sutton said.
With a chance to compete for a 3x3 World Championship in Indonesia up for grabs this weekend, Primus is strictly focusing on the task in front of them.
“We did a really good job last weekend,” Cunngham said, “but just because we did good that weekend, it’s not going to translate. We still have to play hard and bring energy to each game.”
Porter agrees with her teammate.
“We need to take it one game at a time,” she said. “Because if we look forward at the possibility of going to Indonesia then we won’t take each game as hard as we should.”
Clearly having established themselves as a quality 3x3 contender at the USA Basketball National Championship Tournament last weekend, Primus expects a similar, if not better result at the U18 National Championship.