Red Bull 3X Sets Up in Chicago This Weekend Showcasing 3x3 Olympic Hopefuls
Chicago is one of four regionals taking place in September selecting teams for next year’s nationals.
Brazil. Serbia. Hungary.
Those are just a few of the spots Craig Moore has played basketball this year.
Not bad for a guy who averaged 10.7 points over 121 games as a four-year starter at Northwestern University. Moore, 31, who finished his collegiate career 10 years ago, didn’t have a shot at the NBA but did play two seasons overseas in the Netherlands and Romania.
But instead of the traditional game of five players on a team, Moore has found new life in 3x3. So, after flying home from South Korea on Monday, he worked a few days in New York, then is taking off for more basketball this weekend in Chicago.
And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I always felt that my career was kind of cut a little short,” Moore said. “I wasn't one that wanted to give it up, but I didn't have the offers in Europe to continue to play. I kind of got basketball taken away from me. So, I cherish every moment I get to take a step on the floor with friends, teammates. It's huge for me to get out there and play. And I will never take it for granted.”
This weekend, Moore will participate in the Red Bull 3X USA Basketball North Regional at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. There will be 16 men’s and 12 women’s teams competing. It is one of four regionals taking place this month: New York (East, Sept. 14), Atlanta (South, Sept. 21) and Los Angeles (West, Sept. 29) will host the others. From the regionals, 24 men’s and 24 women’s teams will advance to the 2020 Red Bull USA Basketball 3X Nationals next spring. From that event, USA Basketball will select four players — not necessarily all from the championship team — for the men’s and women’s teams that will play in Tokyo less than a year from now, should the USA qualify, as 3x3 makes its Olympic debut.
Moore is one of the marquee U.S. names on the 3x3 circuit. He plays for the prestigious Princeton team, winning three USA Basketball 3x3 national championships (2014, 2017, 2018) and playing in two FIBA World Cups (2014, 2017).
The four regionals this month figure to help elevate the profile of 3x3. Besides playground 3x3, most around America are only familiar with the Big3, the 3-year-old league comprised mainly of ex-NBA players. But more and more, 3x3 leagues and events using FIBA rules are popping up all over, something which is sure to blossom once a wider audience sees it at the Olympics.
“I think, you know, in our country, we will see the Olympics as the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Jay Demings, the Youth and Sport Development Division director for USA Basketball. “And so I think once it's put on the world stage, I agree that not only do we think we're going to get some higher-level players interested in playing, but we think it's going to seed the grassroots community.”
Europe is further ahead in its acclimation to 3x3, but the U.S. has been steadily catching up, especially since 3x3 became part of the Olympic program. As an example, Demings said all five USA Basketball teams that played in international 3x3 competitions, including the men’s 3x3 World Cup, this summer came away with gold medals.
“It's been a whirlwind where I can't believe it's going to be just a year from now that hopefully the U.S. will be there,” Moore said. “There needs to be more publicity for 3x3 in the U.S. It's huge in Asia and Europe, especially Eastern Europe, but China, Japan, Philippines have really fallen in love with the sport. It's lagged a little bit in the U.S., but I think it's starting to grow.”
Part of that growth includes the FIBA 3x3 World Tour stop in Los Angeles on Sept. 20-21. The FIBA 3x3 World Tour is the pinnacle event of an 'open' network of FIBA-endorsed 3x3 tournaments. The 2019 season consists of 11 masters tournaments, before culminating with the FIBA 3x3 World Tour Final on Nov. 2-3, 2019, in Utsunomiya, Japan.
Teams earned a spot in the Red Bull 3X USA Basketball Regionals either by placing in the top four of one of the 20-plus Red Bull qualifiers or by winning other tournaments.
For Moore, it will be another challenging tournament and a heightened sense of urgency with the Olympics being the ultimate prize.
“Our team has played in a couple different regional local events in New York, Minnesota and Philadelphia,” Moore said. “And, you know, I personally am really excited because I went to school in Chicago. So, I’ve got a lot of friends and family out there, and they are excited to see me and will probably come by and watch the games. But Red Bull has done a really good job with these local events. And I'm interested to see how the regionals come out. But it should be fun, it should be good competition, and should be, you know, a really cool overall event.”