USA Women’s 3x3 Players Juggle Olympic Qualifying Tournament With WNBA Season
For the four players who will try to get the USA Basketball Women’s 3x3 National Team qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games, life can be confusing. Sometimes when they wake up, they have to figure out where they are and who they are playing for that day.
One week, they might be playing for an overseas team, the next they might be in a USA Basketball 3x3 training camp that sometimes transitions into training for the traditional five-on-five USA National Team. Don’t forget that they all play for WNBA teams, and the league’s 25th season is rapidly approaching.
It can definitely have your heading spinning. But one thing is a constant.
“Overall, basketball is basketball, and you just have to play the game,” Kelsey Plum said.
Plum will be teaming up with Stefanie Dolson, Allisha Gray and Katie Lou Samuelson in the FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament from May 26-30 in Graz, Austria. In order to qualify for Tokyo — where 3x3 is making its Olympic debut — the U.S. needs a top-three finish.
Plum also plays for the Las Vegas Aces, while Dolson is with the Chicago Sky, Gray the Dallas Wings and Samuelson the Seattle Storm. WNBA training camps opened April 25, exhibition games began May 1 and the season will start on May 14, just 12 days before the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
While the timing is a challenge as their WNBA teams try to get off to good starts, everyone involved knows the importance of helping USA Basketball get the 3x3 team to Tokyo.
“We know what signed up for and the sacrifices that we’ve made during our offseason as well,” said Gray, a 6-foot guard, “But yeah, it’s going to be hard to miss some of the season. We’re doing a good thing as well, helping the USA qualify for the Olympics.”
Since there isn’t a huge difference in the object of the game, the players said there isn’t much difference in how they prepare for five-on-five as opposed to 3x3.
“When I work out, it’s usually just one-on-one stuff, individual, running, cardio — all that type of stuff,” said Dolson, the team’s inside presence at 6-foot-5. “But I have been able to play some 3x3 or like two-on-two stuff in my workout, so nothing super-specific with 3x3, but it’s all cardio in general, so anything works.”
The fact that these four have had multiple minicamps for 3x3 has helped in their overall conditioning. The quickness and intensity of 3x3 — with its 12-secondshot clock.
“3x3 is a very up-tempo game. You’re always going, going, going and never stopping,” Gray said. “So, cardio-wise, that’s like the test. If I can make through a 3x3 game while we’re at training camp, I know that my cardio is good for a five-on-five game.”
Samuelson will be coming off a lengthy run in the EuroLeague playoffs. Her Spanish team, Perfumerias Avenida, made it to the championship game, where it lost to UMMC Ekaterinburg 78-68. She will also be with a new WNBA team after she was traded by Dallas to defending champion Seattle in the offseason.
“I’m very excited about it,” Samuelson said. “I think it’s gonna be a great opportunity.”
For Plum — the No.1 overall pick in the 2017 draft — her WNBA return and action with the 3x3 team mark a comeback from a torn left Achilles’ tendon she sustained in June.
“I’m super-excited,” said Plum, who left the University of Washington as the NCAA’s career scoring leader. “The entire squad is stacked. I missed last season, and so for me I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited and looking forward to a season in my life than I have for this one.”
There are mixed feelings for the players to be leaving their WNBA teams, and at the same time this will be an opportunity the athletes can not pass up.
“I always hate leaving my WNBA team anytime or you know being injured, not being able to play games, it always is not easy,” Dolson said. “But my teammates support me, my coach supports me, and so I’m hoping it kind of happens seamlessly, and I can come back and just be able to jump right back in.”
Added Plum: “For WNBA fans, we’re not going away. We’re coming from the qualifier right back to our teams. We unfortunately do have to miss a couple games, which is tough, but we also know that the ultimate goal is to qualify and be in the Olympics.”