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Teamwork and Chemistry No Problem for USA Basketball Women’s 3x3 Team

  • Author:
    Gary R. Blockus, Red Line Editorial
  • Date:
    Jun 4, 2018

Four Oregon teammates are ready for the world stage at the 2018 FIBA 3x3 World Cup.

Ruthy Hebard couldn’t miss.

Over a four-game stretch this past February, the University of Oregon forward hit 33 consecutive field goals, setting an NCAA record — men’s and women’s.

Sabrina (Ionescu) kept giving me the ball, I kept shooting, and they kept going in,” Hebard, a rising junior, said with a laugh.

Now Hebard, Ionescu and fellow Oregon teammates Erin Boley and Otiona Gildon are representing the United States in the 2018 FIBA 3x3 World Cup that will be held June 8-12 in Manila, Philippines.

The four Ducks won the 2018 USA Basketball Women’s 3x3 National Championship in April, going undefeated with an 8-0 record. Now they get to represent both their school and their country in the FIBA 3x3 World Cup.

Boley said being college teammates is a huge advantage in the fast-paced 3x3 game, which features a 10-minute game clock, a 12-second shot clock and the first team to 21 (or whoever is ahead at the end of regulation) wins. Free throws and field goals from within the arc are worth a single point, while anything outside the arc is worth two points.

The national tournament was the first time all four of them had played 3x3 together as a team, but you couldn’t tell from the way things clicked.

“We’re all really close, and obviously we’ve played together and practiced together at Oregon,” Boley said. “When we went to the national tournament, we used a lot of offensive mentality that we drew from our team practices. We play a lot of 3x3 and 2x2 in our team practices at Oregon, so we used a lot of the same strategies.”

Hebard said that 3x3 includes a lot of the same movement from the full-sided game, so some of the sets from their Oregon playbook translated well.

“I think we saw that other teams weren’t as together as us, and we clicked,” Hebard said of nationals. “We played really hard together and went in with the mentality that we can do it, so let’s do it.

“It shows how good of a coach (Oregon coach Kelly Graves), a program and a school we have,” Hebard said, “and it’s always an honor to wear USA across your chest, a really great honor.”

“It’s an amazing honor to represent both our school and our country at the same time,” said Boley, a former Gatorade National Player of the Year from Hodgenville, Kentucky. “I think this is a great opportunity for us to show what we’re capable as a group of teammates from Oregon. I think it will be really cool to show that we can compete at that level, on that stage, for the World Cup.”

Gildon, from Spokane, Washington, is representing USA Basketball in international competition for the first time.

Hebard, from Fairbanks, Alaska, won a silver medal at the 2017 FIBA U19 World Cup and gold at the 2016 FIBA Americas U18 Championship.

Ionescu, of Walnut Creek, California, helped the USA win the 2017 U24 Four Nations Tournament, the 2014 FIBA U17 World Cup and the 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.

Meanwhile Boley, who sat out Oregon’s 2017-18 season after transferring from Norte Dame, helped the USA women to a silver medal at the 2015 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup, making her the only one of the four with international 3x3 experience.

“That was my first experience with 3x3 and a great experience overall,” Boley said. “I really liked it. It’s such a faster pace. There’s no breaks, ever, and you have to keep your motor going the whole time and learn to play with each other.”

They not only won the 2018 USA Basketball 3x3 National Championship, the four traveled to France last week and captured the 2018 Big Twelve International 3x3 Tournament championship, held June 1-3 in Voiron, France. They captured the crown in style while going up against the host nation in the finals -- Hebard sunk two free throws in overtime to clinch the victory, Ionescu was named MVP of the tournament and Gildon was an all-tournament selection.

They are now setting their sights on the Philippines.

USA opens the preliminary round of 2018 FIBA 3x3 World Cup against Iran on June 8. This is the fifth FIBA 3x3 World Cup. The USA women won the event in 2012 and 2014, took bronze in 2016 and missed the event last year due to world rankings after the World Cup switched from an every-other-year format to an every-year format. The United States is 23-2 all-time in 3x3 World Cup play.

Gary R. Blockus is a contributor to USAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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