Dominique Jones and Harlem Roll to Victory at Red Bull USA Basketball 3X East Regional
Even without Marcel Esonwune, who is ranked fifth in the nation and 22nd in the FIBA individual world rankings, Harlem rolled to a tournament title at the Red Bull USA Basketball 3X Regional this past weekend at Dana Barros Basketball Club just outside Boston.
Dominique Jones and company swept the field in a qualifying tournament on Saturday to earn the prize purse and then rolled to victory at the Red Bull USA Basketball 3X East Regional on Sunday.
Along with Team LA, NY Select and LA Legends, Harlem earned a trip to the 2022 Red Bull USA Basketball 3X Nationals next spring by virtue of finishing in the top four at a regional qualifier.
For 3x3 veterans Jones and Antoinne Morgano, guiding Harlem to another tournament win brings them one step closer towards a selection on the next USA Basketball 3x3 national team roster.
“We came out here and we executed,” said Morgano, who played his college ball at New Jersey City University.
“(Last year), we were part of the guys that went out there trying to get to the Olympics, but we know it’s an open roster now, so we’re just getting the points up, trying to get the wins up, and we know there’s going to be bigger competition at Nationals, so we’re ready.”
With Esonwune out due to injury, Kidani Brutus returned to the Harlem roster and Kedar Edwards made his 3X debut.
The quartet cruised to three wins during pool play to earn a bye into the semifinals Sunday. Harlem bested NY Select 22-12 behind a barrage of 2-pointers from Jones, then took down Allen “A.J.” West and Team LA 21-12 in the tournament final.
Casual Work and Athletes and Assets were among the six teams to advance out of pool play. NY Select beat Casual Work 21-19 in one quarterfinal, and LA Legends dispatched Athletes and Assets 21-10 in the other. Team LA beat their crosstown rivals to make the final but could not stop Team Harlem.
“Marcel got hurt, so Kidani came in and gave us some extra added punch,” said Jones, who won a gold medal with USA Basketball at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
“We’re veterans to the game, so we know what we are going to bring. We made sure we paid attention to detail, and we took care of business.”
The fast-paced 3x3 game is played under FIBA rules in a half-court setting with a 10-minute game clock and 12-second shot clock.
Play is continuous, as teams quickly “clear” the ball behind the 2-point line following a made basket, defensive rebound or steal. The first team to score 21 points via 1-point field goals, 1-point free throws, or 2-pointers from behind the arc is victorious; or if time expires, the team that is leading wins.
In that format, Jones’ ability to hit contested 2-pointers off a quick release proved unstoppable. Jones hit three 2s in sequence to secure a semifinal win over NY Select, and when LA closed out on his shot in the final, he drove past defenders to compile eight points and four assists in the victory.
Early in the final, LA lost Max Hoetzel to an apparent ankle injury. West scored six points to keep his squad close, but they could not stop Jones and Harlem, which has now won three consecutive Red Bull 3X events dating back to their Aug. 28 win at a local qualifier in Brooklyn, New York.
There are three more Red Bull 3X Regionals scheduled this fall. The Midwest Regional will be Sept. 26 in Minneapolis, the South regional will be Oct. 9 in Charlotte, and the West Regional is tentatively scheduled for late October in Oakland.
After the USAMen's 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Team consisting of Jones, Robbie Hummel, Kareem Maddox and Joey King was upset by the Netherlands in Austria this past May, the top players on the circuit are working hard to prepare for their next opportunity.
“Playing for USA Basketball is the highest honor,” Jones said. “So to put on that jersey, it means the world to me. I’m not taking any moment for granted, and when the time comes, I hope I get my number called.”
Nate Weitzer is a journalist based in the Boston area. He is a freelance contributor to USAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.