Basketball Becoming a Career for Dudley Blackwell
The 16-year-old had his first USA Basketball experience in 2016, and in April was named to the USA Youth Olympic Games 3x3 team.
When he was younger, Dudley Blackwell knew he enjoyed basketball. He had fun playing with his friends and enjoyed the competition and challenges the game posed, but he didn’t necessarily see his future in it.
That changed for good in third grade when his coach — a man all the kids called “Coach Bird” — in the Miami Police Athletic League took him aside one day and told him he thought he could go far in the game if he challenged himself.
“At first, I didn’t take him serious,” Blackwell said. “But in that next game we had, he trusted me. We were down by like two points and he trusted me with the last shot. He didn’t even give us a play to run. He said, ‘Just take the shot ‘cause I know you’re going to make it.’ And I made it, and we won the game. I never forgot that moment.”
Blackwell has taken that initial advice from his coach and applied it over the years since. The 16-year-old from Miramar, Florida, has developed into one of the top 100 high school juniors in the nation as a 6-foot-6 small forward.
He received his first invitation to participate in the USA Basketball Junior National Team October minicamp in 2016 and was back in 2017. He also received an invitation to the USA Men’s U16 National Team training camp last year.
All of those experiences came in the traditional five-on-five game. His greatest successes to date have come in the burgeoning 3x3 format.
In March, Blackwell teamed with Jyare Davis, Patrick McCaffery and Carson McCorkle to capture the 2018 USA Basketball 3x3 U18 National Championship. That group recently traveled to the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, which are being held Oct. 6-18 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“It’s an honor,” he said. “Not everybody gets a chance to represent their country. Only a few people get that chance. To be honest, I’ve got to take every bit of it and enjoy it.”
Blackwell said his mother, Mona, will make the trip with him and can’t stop talking about it. He laughs about it and enjoys knowing he has made his mother so proud. Blackwell credits his mom for doing “a tremendous job” raising him and his two brothers by herself.
His mom is an accountant, and Blackwell might have a future in that line of work, too, someday, when he’s finished playing the game he loves.
“I’ve always been into math,” he said. “It’s always been my favorite subject and my best subject.”
The 3x3 game has taken off in recent years with the BIG3 league filling part of the gap for fans in the summer months during the NBA offseason. Blackwell said 3x3 is fun to play because the court is more open, and it reminds him of being on the court at the park with his friends. He believes 3x3 basketball has a bright future, especially internationally, because it requires fewer good players to put a competitive team on the court.
But, there is an unexpected side of the 3x3 game that takes a little getting used to.
“I’ve been trying to get stronger, because three-on-three basketball is way more physical game than five-on-five,” Blackwell said. “So, I’ve been lifting weights and stuff just trying to be ready. The refs don’t call as much ticky-tacky fouls like they would in a real actual game. They just let the guys play a little bit more.”
Blackwell said he and his USA Basketball teammates have become close in the past year as they prepared for the USA Basketball 3x3 U18 National Championship this past April and in the months since they were crowned champions. He said he’s looking forward to being on the court with them again in what he said is a “business trip” to Argentina.
“Those are my guys. We’re real close,” Blackwell said. “I knew Jyare and Carson from before, like in middle school, ‘cause we attended basketball camps with each other, but USA Basketball brought us a lot closer. We’re brothers.”
Blackwell hopes to compete for his country in the traditional five-on-five game at some point, too. And, of course, he dreams of a college scholarship and an NBA draft night in which his name is called.
“Why not?” he said. “That has been my motto, day-by-day, ‘Why not?’”
Follow along with the USA Basketball Men's and Women's Youth Olympic Games teams at USAB.com and on USA Basketball's social media channels.