Chasing The Elusive Men's 3x3 Gold
When the 2015 USA Basketball Men’s 3x3 U18 World Championship Team takes the court on Thursday (12:40 p.m. ET @ http://www.fiba.com/3x3U18WC/2015) at the 2015 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship in Debrecen, Hungary, it will do so as an underdog.
That might seem strange for a federation such as USA Basketball, which is defending gold medalist in every FIBA and FIBA Americas competition on the full-court, five-on-five side of the game. However, the USA men haven’t fared as well in the 3x3 game. In fact, in the five youth 3x3 competitions, dating to the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and including the 2011, 2012 and 2013 3x3 U18 World Championships and 2014 Youth Olympic Games, USA Basketball claimed a medal just once -- returning home with a silver medal in 2012.
Two-time gold medal winner as an assistant coach with the USA Junior National Team, Eric Flannery ( St. Edward H.S., Ohio) saw firsthand at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, where the USA men finished in fourth place, how tough the 3x3 competition is.
“3x3 requires every player that plays to have multiple skills to do everything,” said Flannery. “You have to be able to defend; you have to defend different players. Offensively, you have to be able to shoot, you have to be able to score in different ways, and you have to be able to handle the ball.”
Six-time USA Basketball gold-medal winning head coach Don Showalter (Iowa City H.S., Iowa) agrees with Flannery.
“A lot of it is picking the players, picking the right players for your team,” said Showalter. “Obviously, we have done a great job with U16 and U17 teams, but we probably need to pick a different type of player for 3x3 because it is a different type of game. With the 3x3 forum, you need guys who are all skilled ball handlers, shooters and drivers.”
Jalek Felton (Mullins H.S./Mullins, S.C.), a 6-foot-2 guard on this year’s USA 3x3 U18 squad who has verbally committed to the University of North Carolina, thinks his team has exactly that -- skilled ball handlers, shooters and drivers.
“We play together so well,” said Felton. “We don’t really have one particular strength, we just play well together. If I had to say one thing, it would have to be mine and Payton’s (Pritchard) shooting from the outside. We can also work it from the outside in and let the big guys go to work. If we start out pretty good, we can let the big guys bang, get the feel for the ball and once we get moving and get in the groove, we’ll be pretty good from there.”
The USA team, which also features 6-foot-7 Gonzaga University verbal committ Zach Collins (Bishop Gorman H.S./Las Vegas, Nev.), 6-foot- 1 University of Oklahoma bound Payton Pritchard (West Linn H.S./West Linn, Ore.) and 6-foot-7 uncommitted P.J. Washington (Findlay College Prep/Frisco, Texas), trained May 29-31 at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. During the weekend’s practice sessions, the squad brought in a strong sparring partner to better help it prepare for the 3x3 U18 Worlds.
The 2015 New Zealand 3x3 U18 World Championship Team joined the USA team for evening scrimmages, which greatly aided the U.S. squad’s training as New Zealand featured a pair of big men bound for USA college campus. Sam Timmins, who has committed to the University of Washington, and Tai Wynyard, who has committed to University of Kentucky, both stand 6-foot-10 and gave the USA a taste of what the team will see in Hungary.
“It gave us a feel for how it’s going to be once the competition starts, we can expect to see bigger guys, and we just really need to compete at that physical level that’s going to be over there,” stated Felton. “It really gave us a better chance to see what the teams will be like in the 3x3s.
“It was great because (at the USA Basketball 3x3 U18 National Tournament) we were playing against a lot of guards,” Felton added. "We never really faced any big guys, so the guys that we have were pretty tall, so we just pounded our way in past the little guys. But now that we had more height to go against, we can’t fight past them so easily. We had to readjust what they do and that makes it better for our team.”
In order to claim the gold medal in Hungary, Felton feels all his team needs to do is, “compete, play hard, fight, don’t give up, and believe in each other.”
In addition to the men’s and women’s tournament, which features 24 teams each, there will be three skills contests from which athletes can earn medals: a dunk contest (men), skills contest (women) and a mixed shootout (men and women).
“Payton Pritchard is going to do the skills contest and I’m going to do the dunk contest,” said Felton.
But, he won’t give up any secrets to what he plans on showing the crowd in the dunk contest. “I can’t tell you what I’m going to do. You’ll have to wait and see,” he said with a grin.
Watch for yourself this weekend to see if the 2015 USA Men’s 3x3 U18 World Championship Team will make history, starting with the team’s opener against Puerto Rico, which will be sreamed live online at 12:40 p.m. EDT on Thursday, June 4 on at FIBA.com.
USA Men’s 3x3 U18 Schedule
|Thursday, June 4|
|12:40 p.m. EDT||USA-Puerto Rico|
|3:30 p.m. EDT||USA-Georgia|
|Friday, June 5|
|1:20 p.m. EDT||USA-Argentina|
|3:30 p.m. EDT||USA-Indonesia|
|Saturday, June 6|
|8:30 a.m. EDT||Spain-USA|
|Round of 16|
|Saturday, June 6 • TBD|
|Sunday, June 7 • TBD|
|Sunday, June 7 • TBD|
|Sunday, June 7|
|1:45 p.m.EDT||Bronze Medal Game|
|2:45 p.m. EDT||Gold Medal Game|
|NOTE: All of the USA’s preliminary
round games will be
streamed live at: