Great Competition Looms For USA Men’s, Women’s 3x3 National Tournaments
Looking at the listing of athletes scheduled to compete during the 2017 USA Basketball 3x3 National Tournaments in the men’s and women’s open divisions (no age limit), there should be no shortage of exciting match-ups during the April 8-9 tournament taking place at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Competing in the women’s tournament are six teams from the Pacific-12 Conference: University of California, University of Colorado, University of Oregon, University of Southern California, University of Washington and Washington State University. These athletes battled it out during Pac-12 league play and rivalries don’t fade away just because you’re playing a 10-minute game of 3x3 hoops.
There are four women’s athletes who have played in the USA 3x3 tournament, including Cal’s Kristine Anigwe and Washington’s Natalie Romeo, both of whom have medaled at a FIBA 3x3 competition. Anigwe, who owns two gold medals playing for USA Basketball five-on-five teams, earned a silver at the 2015 3x3 U18 World Championship and Romeo claimed bronze at the 2016 FIBA 3x3 World Championship.
Ariel Investments returns Megan Bowen and Cheryl Stevens, both of whom played basketball at Princeton University, and helped Ariel to a third-place finish at the 2016 USA 3x3 National Tournament.
Also boasting of prior USA Basketball experience are Crystal Bradford, whose Silent Assassins team recently captured the Dew NBA 3X tournament title to advance to the USA 3x3 tournament, won a gold medal with the 2013 USA World University Games Team; as well as Oregon’s Ruthy Hebard and USC’s Valerie Higgins, who were teammates on the 2016 USA U18 National Team that won gold at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship.
“It’s actually kind of nostalgic,” said Higgins of her return to the USOTC. “Walking around brings back so many memories of playing on that team. It was such a huge honor, and I had so much respect for those coaches and those girls. It was so much fun.”
The men’s 3x3 field, which will see the winner have the opportunity to advance to compete for USA Basketball at the 2017 FIBA 3x3 World Cup in Nantes, France, returns 17 athletes who have competed in past USA 3x3 competitions, including 3BALL Premier’s Myke Henry and Alfonzo McKinnie and Harlem’s Kavon Lytch, who brought home the 2017 FIBA 3x3 World Championship silver medal. That historic finish marked the USA’s first medal of any kind at the FIBA 3x3 World Championship for Men.
Those three are itching to get back to the 3x3 Worlds, but it is not going to be an easy battle for first place on Sunday. Ariel Slow & Steady, which captured the 2014 title and has competed at this tournament each of the past three summers, returns Damon Huffman, Daniel Mavraides and Craig Moore, a member of the 2014 USA 3x3 World Championship Team, from previous Ariel squads.
“We play on the FIBA World Tour, as well,” said NYC’s Jamaal Womack, who also competed here in 2016. “The way the refs officiate this kind of tournament is a little different. This is indoor – the FIBA World Tour is outdoor. Being here for a second time, we feel like we might have a little bit of an edge to do well.”
Denver, champions in 2015, also is stocked with players who have been here before in two-time participant Corey Campbell, three-time participant Marcus King-Stockton and Gary Sugar, who played for Denver in 2015. Additionally, Hard2Guard Elite returns Christopher Kolaxis, Michael Lytle and Ben Patrick, who helped the team finish tied for fifth place in 2016; and NYC, which also tied for fifth in 2016, again lists Devin Douglas, Marcel Esonwune and Womack on its roster. Two athletes from Select Imports, Kurtis Koenig and Michael Linklater, competed in 2015 for the runner-up Prime.
“We’re more familiar with this situation, and the guys we’re playing against,” said Womack. “The whole setup – checking in, getting comfortable, getting into your right frame of mind – I definitely feel more at ease this year having been through the process last year.”
With the myriad of talent ascending upon the USOTC this weekend, there will be no shortage of tight games. And with the fast-paced nature of 3x3 basketball, teams cannot take a play off because it could be a difference maker in the game.
“It’s going to be good competition,” said Womack. The men’s open is always good competition. Last year, the champions from Chicago and the other New York City team that went to the championship – those were eight great players. I don’t expect anything different this time. I looked at the rosters and team Denver is going to very, very good, as well, and also the team from Minnesota coming in. It’s going to be good competition.”
“I think just being here before in Colorado and playing here, kind of knowing what it takes to make the USA team will (help me this weekend),” added Higgins. “There’s a lot of great competition and only working in the gym and working out can prepare you for that.”
There are many newcomers aspiring to become the 2017 USA Basketball 3x3 National Tournament champion, including Cody Crowe, who helped lead his team, Crowe, to the ONG Hoopla title to qualify for the USA Basketball tournament.
“It’s really exciting. It’s an honor to just participate with anything at this level,” said Crowe. “We’re very honored to be out here in Colorado Springs and just excited to play.
“It’s going to be physical play,” he added. “Most outdoor 3x3 basketball tournaments are very physical, which we are kind of hoping for. It’s just high quality competition.”
So, if you happen to be in Colorado Springs this weekend, stop by the USOTC for some 3x3 action. And if you’re not able to make it, be sure to check out the USA Basketball live stream (www.usab.com/live) of the championship games beginning Sunday at 1:30 pm EDT.