Carson McCorkle Hopes to Repeat 3x3 National Title Success at Youth Olympic Games
The 16-year-old has won while improving his own game through the 3x3 format.
One of the things Carson McCorkle loves about 3x3 basketball is the challenge, including the need for chemistry and communication with teammates.
It’s safe to say that chemistry won’t be a problem for the squad that won the USA Basketball 3x3 U18 National Championship this past spring and will go on to play at the Youth Olympic Games next month in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“Chemistry is not going to be an issue for us, but it is something that you have to stress and (also) talk about communication, because we only get to meet a certain amount of times,” said McCorkle, of Greensboro, North Carolina. “Those are things we certainly need to work on.”
The group came together just a couple of days before the national championship this past March in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and squeezed in a few practices before storming through the tournament undefeated. The performance earned the foursome a trip to Buenos Aires, for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, where the Americans open Group C play on Oct. 7 with games against Russia and Mongolia. Host Argentina and Estonia also are in the group.
The team only got together two more times over the summer: in late June for the Spokane Hoopfest, where it won its division, and for an August minicamp with the 3x3 open division national team.
At 16 and just entering his sophomore year of high school, the 6-foot-2, 175-pound McCorkle is the youngest member of the team. He knows his game still needs plenty of work, but he has found that 3x3 provides the challenge he needs to get better, with each player needing to contribute in many areas, not just one or two.
“It does, for sure,” said McCorkle, a shooting guard. “You have to learn how to set screens, move off the ball, as well as keep the ball in your hands. Talking is huge, too, because it is a more spread-out game, because you only have two teammates (on the court). Talking, communication and defense are three really big things with that.”
Games of 3x3 are played on a half court setup with a 12-second shot clock, with the first team to 21 points, or the team leading at the end of the 10-minute game clock winning the game.
“It’s a lot faster-paced game,” McCorkle said. “You have to get your shot off faster. There’s nowhere to hide. There’s only five other guys (between the two teams) on the court with you, so one-on-one and defense are really important in the game. You can’t really hide and go through the motions. You have to be able to play and stick out in every game.”
Sticking out is something McCorkle has done recently. On Sept. 21, he surprised many by making a verbal commitment to play for Tony Bennett at the University of Virginia. Remember, as part of the Class of 2021, McCorkle still has three high school seasons to play — and Virginia doesn’t even have a commitment yet from the Class of 2020.
“I just knew it was the place for me,” said McCorkle, who was a top reserve for Greensboro (N.C.) Day School as a freshman, averaging 10.4 points per game and helping the team win the state Class 3A title. “I knew it was the perfect fit. When I knew all those things and my family knew the same things as well ... we were comfortable with the coaching staff and had a lot of trust in them, and they had the same feelings for us. I knew it was the right place for me, so why waste any time?
McCorkle also was early on the scene for representing USA Basketball. As a 14-year-old, he was invited to a USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team October minicamp for high school-age players.
“It was a really good learning experience for me,” he said. “I got to play against a lot of older guys, a lot of guys who are in the NBA now. I got to guard them, play against them and learn from those guys.”
While he played against guys who made it to the NBA, he has been coached by someone who just retired from the NBA. McCorkle plays for David West’s AAU team. West retired in August after 15 NBA seasons, the last two spent winning titles with the Golden State Warriors.
“It’s been unbelievable,” McCorkle said. “I always tell everyone that he’s the most unique guy in the NBA, in my mind. He’s got so many different ways of teaching and ways of learning. He knows so many things outside of basketball, too. It’s been really cool to learn from him. He’s been a great mentor. Learning from him on the court has helped my game a lot.”
McCorkle enjoys the 3x3 format and sees it growing, though he didn’t watch the BIG3 — a professional 3x3 league — much before being selected to play for USA Basketball.
“It’s really beneficial to your game, offensively and defensively,” McCorkle said of 3x3. “It really helps with moving off the ball, it helps with communication, it helps with one-on-one defense and offense. Those are the kind of points in five-on-five that kids tend to struggle with, communication, defense, things like that. I do think (3x3 is) going to grow. It’s gotten a lot more popular over the last couple years, and I think it’s going to continue to grow.”