USA Men’s 3x3 Team Bonds at Training Camp Ahead of FIBA 3x3 OQT
Sometimes all it takes to win in basketball is a greater amount of talent to overwhelm an opponent. But sometimes what is missing, especially when things get a little tight, is cohesiveness, that little extra natural anticipation.
From May 1-18 in Beverly Hills, the four members of the USA 3x3 Men’s National Team — Canyon Barry, Robbie Hummel, Dominique Jones and Kareem Maddox —basically spent every hour together, not only working on perfecting their skills, but learning what each other is going to do without thinking about it and just getting to know each other better.
That extra bit of unity will be important for this team as it tries to become part of the inaugural 3x3 field for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 when the U.S. participates in the 2021 FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament from May 26-30 at Graz, Austria. The Americans will need to finish among the top three of the 20-team field to qualify for Tokyo.>
“It’s just an actual chance to just gain some chemistry and get a chance to work out at a high level,” said Jones, the 2019 FIBA 3x3 World Tour MVP. “I think that’s the biggest thing that we all had come to agreement on that we didn’t have during the previous year (due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Just the chance to be together and just get some work in, day in and day out, I think was very big for us.”
While the four have never played in a FIBA 3x3 competition together, they all know each other’s game. Barry, Hummel and Maddox played on the 2019 USA 3x3 World Cup Team that won the gold medal, while Jones and Maddox played on the 2019 USA Pan American Games gold-medal team. Also, Barry, Hummel and Maddox play for Princeton on the FIBA 3x3 World Tour, while Jones is the top-ranked American 3x3 player and suits up with New York Harlem.
“It’s been really good,” Hummel said about the four players living and training together daily at the Red Bull 3X House. “We’ve gotten to do some things that we certainly have never done together. There’s been a lot of video game playing in a group that hasn’t necessarily done a ton of that. But you know at night, you kind of wind down and we’ve played a lot of ‘Call of Duty’ together, which has been really fun and really funny actually.”
Part of the May training camp experience has been the home they lived in. A residence in Beverly Hills was transformed into what is known as the Red Bull 3X House
. Not only does it include an outdoor court with a surface similar to what the team will play on in Austria, but the home also featured commissioned basketball art, photos and murals. The team also had professional photoshoot and several guest speakers have stopped by to help the team with the mental and physical sides of the game as the players attempt to make history for USA Basketball.
“That was tremendous,” Jones said. “Anytime you have people come in and lend their time on that part of the game. No matter what it is, the worst can always get better. Somebody could say one thing and honestly switch up the game. So that is something that was big for us that they (USA Basketball and Red Bull) brought in different people — whether it was a shooting coach or a mental health coach — just to help us on certain things and affecting mental toughness and abilities and learning in different ways is very important. As people, we can only grow, and I think that it’s important that we keep growing.”
A lot of important work was done on the court and the team is feeling good about where it is just a week before the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
“It’s not here yet so you know we’re still building day by day and that’s an important thing,” Jones said. “We want to build on those highs. You can always get better day in and day out. Until we are on the podium, we just got to build. Now it’s a process. We want to embrace every step of this process.”
It is a process that begins with two games May 27 — vs. Lithuania (8:10 a.m. ET) and South Korea (9:50 a.m.) — and continues May 27 — vs. Kazakhstan (8:10 a.m.) and Belarus (9:50 a.m.) — to determine the two Group B representatives that will advance to the quarterfinals. With the added chemistry from this intense training camp, Barry, Hummel, Jones and Maddox appear to be at the top of their game.
“Very confident,” Hummel said of the team’s mentality. “We look at it as we’re the defending world champions in 2019, and there was no 2020 world championships. We retained the belt because of that. But we’ve won at this level, we’ve seen what it takes to win at this level, I think we’re a very confident group going into Austria.”
Steve Drumwright is a journalist based in Murrieta, California. He is a freelance contributor to USAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.