This 3x3 Team is Beyond Adroit
A game of five-on-five, full-court basketball can be played a number of ways – it can range from slow and deliberate to an incredibly fast, run-and-gun of contest. But with FIBA’s 3x3 rules, which include a 12-second shot clock in a half-court setting, the pace would might make even an offensive-minded coach like Paul Westhead dizzy.
With no coach allowed on the bench, athletes must be able to think and react to the action quickly. They must be able to communicate on the fly, to shout out about switching on defense, grab a rebound or to let others know a shot has been put up.
There is one team that will be doing things slightly differently.
Savage Deaf Fellas, which qualified for the 2018 USA 3x3 National Championships as Team Adroit at the Gallaudet University 3x3 Qualifier last November, is comprised of four former Gallaudet basketball players. All of whom are deaf. The team includes brothers Anton Jackson, a current Bison men’s basketball assistant coach, Frank Jackson Jr. and teammates Orion Palmer and Kristofer Saucedo.
“We are able to communicate by keeping eye contact with one another, relying on facial expressions, body language, and hand signals,” said Saucedo.
“Deaf players have the best eyes in the world and can react to anything in high-speed action,” added Palmer.
The four didn’t all play during the same four years for the Bison, but a couple of them overlapped, and, of course, the Jackson brothers have been hooping it up together since childhood.
Not only did all four play collegiately, three have represented the United States in major international competitions, including the prestigious Deaflympics and the World Deaf Basketball Championships. In fact, Anton and Frank each brought home gold medals from the Deaflympics, Anton in 2009 and Frank in 2001; Palmer took home the bronze medal from the 2013 Deaflympics and competed in the 2015 World Deaf Basketball Championships; and the Jackson brothers teamed up and earned bronze at the 2007 World Deaf Basketball Championships.
The key to winning more hardware this weekend, according to Anton, is, “trusting each other as teammates, great execution on both ends, defense and offense.”
They also will turn to a lesson they learned from Kevin Kovacs, head coach of the Bison men’s basketball squad.
According to Anton, the communication question is one they get most often and Kovacs always replied, "We have to use our hands to communicate. And I know it’s not the same as talking, but we have to be able to see each other’s hands. We just have to find a way."
This will be the first tournament for the four of them as a team, Frank was a replacement, but they’ve played a lot of pick-up basketball with and against each other, and they’re excited to have the opportunity to come to Colorado Springs to show off their skills.
And, they all believe they will find a way to win.
“The key to success is playing good, hard defense," said Palmer, who wants to "show people that deaf can do anything hearing people can do."
It’s also no surprise that they all want to make the 2021 USA Deaflympics Basketball team and bring home the gold medal. But first, they’re focused on this weekend.
“We have the best eye hustle in the world and are able to catch, quicker than one second, anything in high speed action,” boasted Frank, echoing Palmer’s earlier sentiment.
So, if you’re in Colorado Springs this weekend, be sure to stop by the United States Olympic Training Center to catch the 3x3 action.
You might just learn a lesson about communicating with your teammates.