USA 3x3 U18 Nationals Set to Tip March 24
There’s a different kind of March Madness getting ready to begin at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Featuring 12 men’s teams and 11 women’s teams from across the country, the 2018 USA Basketball 3x3 U18 National Championships tips off at 9 a.m. (MDT) March 24, and the competition should be exciting, fast-paced and fun to watch.
Even more enticing for teams to compete at a high level is the fact that there is a free trip to Argentina on the line as the tournament also will serve as a trials for the 2018 U.S. Youth Olympic Games, which will be held Oct. 6-18 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Games will be played under FIBA 3x3 rules and feature a 10-minute clock and 12-second shot clock. Other rules of note: free throws and buckets inside the arc are worth one point and shots from beyond the arc are worth two points; the first team to 21 points or whichever team is ahead at the end of regulation play is the winner; and if the game ends in a tie, the first team to score two points in overtime wins.
Further, there are no coaches allowed in 3x3 play, which means athletes have to be able to think on the fly, something that I'ces Utegg (River Ridge H.S./New Port Richey, Fla.) understands.
“We’re all very quick, and we communicate very well together,” said Utegg, who plays for Hard2Guard. “We understand how each other play, we’re all from the same area, so that’s a plus for us, because there are no coaches, and we have to be able to play together.”
“I feel like it’s a little more relaxed, having only one sub and three teammates,” added Azzi Fudd (St. John’s College H.S./Falls Church, Va.) on the difference between 3x3 and the traditional game. “It’s definitely harder because you really have to contain your man, having not as help-side and defend. And with the 12-second shot clock, you have to be on your toes and be ready to make a play, be ready to make a stop, so I’m looking forward to that.”
In addition to the basketball games, over the weekend athletes will live in the dorms and eat in the USOTC cafeteria, while walking in the footsteps of many others who have trained and honed their skills here.
For some athletes, arriving on campus is new and exciting.
“Overall, I’m excited about the whole experience, because none of us have been here,” said Utegg of her Hard2Guard teammates. “I feel like it’s going to be a really good experience. We’re going to take a lot from it and also learn from other girls we’re playing against.”
For others, however, the campus has a more familiar feel.
“Being back here brings back good memories, and I’m really excited,” said BS30’s Fudd about returning to the USOTC after spending part of last summer as a member of the USA U16 National Team that captured a gold medal at the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.
Quest’s Carson McCorkle (Greensboro Day School/Greensboro, N.C.) is another athlete who has been here before. His first experience with USA Basketball came during the 2016 USA Junior National Team October minicamp.
“This is the first time I’ve been here for 3x3,” stated McCorkle. “I went to the U16 trials in 2016, so this is a new experience for me. I’m excited. It’s a new thing for me in basketball, but it’s been really fun and exciting. It feels good to be back. There a are a lot more people here than there were when I was here last fall, but it’s been really fun so far.”
No matter what happens in the competition Saturday and Sunday, Darius Miles (Pinellas Park H.S./Largo, Fla.) is taking it all in stride. He has a couple very simple goals, “to get better and have fun.”
And in the end, that’s what really matters.
Saturday’s preliminary round games run from 9 a.m. (all times listed are MDT) through 5 p.m. and will be played at the USOTC Sports Center II, while Sunday’s knock-out rounds go from 9 a.m. – 1:20 p.m. The 3x3 weekend’s games are free and open to the public.