Inside The Half Court With USA Basketball 3x3 National Tournament
Arriving today at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, from throughout the country were dozens of 3x3 basketball players – including two-time Olympic gold medalist Ruthie Bolton (Sacramento, Calif.) – who will spend the next few days taking part in skills contests, such as a 3-point shootout, while, most importantly, battling to earn the 2015 USA Basketball 3x3 National Tournament title.
In addition to the honor of winning of the tournament, the victorious men’s and women’s teams will receive automatic entry into next year’s 2016 USA Basketball 3x3 National Tournament, which will determine who will represent the USA at the 2016 FIBA World Championship in Guangzhou, China.
Further, this year’s winning men’s team also will earn a berth into the Mexico Masters 3x3 event Sept. 9-10 in Mexico City, where two teams will qualify for the FIBA 3x3 World Tour Final in Abu Dhabi Oct. 15-16, 2015.
Kevin Gullikson (Madison, Wis.) of Midwest Connection is a former Wisconsin Badger basketball player who will take the half court along with his 3x3 teammates Levon Crawford (Madison, Wis.), Brensely Haywood (Minneapolis, Minn.) and Trevor Wittwer (Redwood Falls, Minn). All four team members (3x3 teams can have no more than four members) have been playing basketball since they were younger but only recently began to focus on 3x3.
“We played in a tournament in Chicago,” said Gullikson. “We had a lot of fun with that, so we decided to come here. It is pretty neat to play at the Olympic Training Center. “
Despite playing in Chicago, Gullikson said he realizes he has a lot more to learn about 3x3.
“The pace, is probably the biggest thing,” said Gullikson. “With the 12-second shot clock you can’t fall asleep because someone is going to hit a 2-pointer. The other thing is you get so much value out of the two-point shot than the one-point shot, having those shots are valuable.”
In 3x3 basketball, teams play for 10 minutes, or until a team scores 21 points, and shots from behind arc are worth two points, while shots inside the arc are worth one point.
“I think what we learned from the qualifier tournament is that we need quicker transitions,” Gullikson said of a pre-tournament, warm-up event on Thursday. “Whenever there is a basket, getting back on defense will be the biggest thing to cover, so that no one has a wide-open shot.”
Like Gullikson, many of the athletes attending the tournament are new to the game, including Kaylie Radar (Thornton, Colo.) from the University of Denver.
Considering that the 2015 USA Basketball 3x3 National Tournament is her first experience at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, Radar asked her sister, who has attended a previous USA Basketball 3x3 National Tournament, for advice.
“She definitely said to watch the shot clock because it goes by quick, “ said Radar. “And it does go by quick. We had like four shot-clock violations in one game.
“Our biggest issue and focus is spacing,” Radar explained. “We want to make sure that we are spaced out more instead of all in one area. We want to utilize the whole court.”
Along with 3x3 rookies, a few athletes enter this weekend with vast experience in 3x3 basketball. One of those is Prime’s Michael Linklater (Saskatchewon, Canada), who has played 3x3 in cities all over the globe for the past two years.
“The last two years, I have been fortune enough to do fairly well in the World Tour,” Linklater said. “One of the best parts of the World Tour is being able to travel. There are a lot of players who have passed their college or professional career. This gives you an opportunity to still travel the world playing competitive basketball and still have a career back home. It is a good balance. You get to see different parts of the world. You get to meet a lot of people.”
Linklater is hoping that his team does well enough this weekend to send him on the road once more, this time to Mexico City in September.
“We hope to come out and play strong,” Linklater said. “We want to compete. Usually people go to tournaments hoping to win. We want the same. We are not here for second place. We are here to play.
“With the experience that I have, I know a lot of little things that really help you in this game. What people don’t know about 3x3 is that it is a completely different game than five-on-five. So, knowing some of those basic things, like how quick it is, how you can get easy points with other teams not being so familiar with the rules. Some simple plays will help with quick-hits, which you need with a 12-second shot clock.”
Follow USA Basketball 3x3 on Twitter at @usab3x3 for all of the latest news from the 2015 USA Basketball 3x3 National Tournament and more.