Rookies and Gold Medalists Join Forces on USA 3x3 U18 Women’s World Cup Team
Two years after helping the USA to a gold medal at the 2019 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, Janiah Barker (Tampa Bay Tech H.S./Marietta, Ga.) and Kiki Rice (Sidwell Friends School/Bethesda, Md.) are back in a USA Basketball uniform, but on a much different mission this time around.
Instead of being two members of a 12-person, five-on-five national team, Barker and Rice are joined by Ayanna Patterson (Homestead H.S./Fort Wayne, Ind.) and Mikaylah Williams (Parkway H.S./Bossier City, La.), and the four athletes comprise the entire team that will represent the USA at the 2021 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup Aug. 24-29 in Debrecen, Hungary.
“Just going off that U16 experience, I've just really gotten used to USA Basketball and the gold standards and how we're expected to compete and carry ourselves,” Rice said. “I've been working over the past two years a ton on my game. I think I've improved a ton, and I’m really excited about that, just to represent USA in a different way.”
Barker also pointed to the different opportunity the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup will present.
“I feel a lot more free just to play my game, how I want to,” Barker said. “In five-on-five you have a role. It’s still exciting to play on the team, but 3x3 is a great experience that is a once in a lifetime chance. It's definitely so much fun.”
In 3x3 basketball, three players are on the court for each team, and the substitutions come at nearly every opportunity due to the pace set by the game’s 12-second shot clock. The winner is the first team to score 21 points or the team leading at the end of the 10-minute clock. Baskets made inside the arc are worth one point, and shots from outside the arc are worth two points.
Patterson is the only athlete to previously have played 3x3 basketball – she participated in the 2019 USA Basketball 3x3 U18 National Championship.
“I was a little shocked, just because I hadn’t played 3x3 since I was a freshman,” Patterson said of her reaction when she was asked to join the 2021 USA 3x3 U18 World Cup Team. “I went to Colorado Springs (for the 2019 USA Basketball 3x3 U18 National Championship) last time, so it was just a big jump. I know the difference in the basketball and the movements and all the nuances of the game.
“It is coming back to me slowly,” Patterson said of 3x3 basketball. “When we're doing things like learning the plays and stuff, we ran some of that stuff at nationals, so it’s coming back to me. I definitely love it, because it's just so fast.”
Williams’ reaction when she learned she would have the chance to represent the USA at the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup was to study the game via posts on the FIBA3x3 YouTube channel. She watched the USA women’s team from the 2021 FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament, specifically guards Kelsey Plum and Katie Lou Samuelson.
“I watched them play, and I just got a lot of tips on how to do it and little tricks,” Williams said.
“I think I'm going to be a good defender, as well as offensive threat,” Williams added.
The USA will have just three days of training camp before departing for the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup in Debrecen, Hungary.
The USA will open play on Aug. 24 against Belarus at 6:45 a.m. (all times listed are EDT) followed by Slovenia at 9 a.m. EDT. The USA’s final two preliminary contests will be on Aug. 26 against Mongolia at 6:40 a.m. and Russia at 9:55 a.m. After playing each of the teams in its group, the top two finished teams from each of the four pools advance to the quarterfinals. Quarterfinal winners go on to the semifinals. The two semifinal winners play in the gold medal game, and the two semifinal losers meet in the bronze medal game.
“Mainly, it's just about working, really,” Williams said of training camp.
Since all four athletes are from the high school class of 2022, this is not the first time they have crossed paths on the basketball court.
“It’s easy to mold with them,” Patterson said of her teammates. “I've gotten to see Mikaylah play out in Dallas, but then I was out at another tournament with Kiki and Janiah. So, we all know each other’s game really well.”