33-Year-Old Standout Guard Kidani Brutus Goes From Bronx to International Stage
The announcement of the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team is often a who’s-who of the sport’s biggest stars.
The team has included McDonald’s All-Americans, NBA All-Stars, former NCAA stars and Basketball Hall of Famers.
The U.S. Men’s 3x3 National Team, on the other hand, features success stories of a different kind. Some of them had a year or two in college. They’re guys who are simply grateful to play for their country.
“Man, I never thought at age 33, I’d represent the United States of America in the World Cup,” Kidani Brutus said. “Coming from where I came from, I never thought I’d have this opportunity. I was never a top-ranked player. I never played in the NBA. I’m just grateful and I’m blessed.”
Brutus is a member of the four-man squad that will compete in the FIBA 3x3 World Cup in Antwerp, Belgium, from June 21-26. The 6-foot-1 guard from Bronx, New York, will again be teamed with Dominique Jones, a 5-9 guard from Harlem, New York, who has played with Brutus on several 3x3 teams in recent years after two years at Fort Hays State in Kansas.
“We feed off each other very well,” Brutus said. “Whenever I’m scoring, he knows to get me the ball. And whenever he is scoring, I know to look for him. I’ve known him since I was 16, so we’ve been playing together for a long time. We have great chemistry.”
In addition to Brutus and Jones, the U.S. squad includes 3x3 newcomers Khalil Iverson and James Parrott.
Brutus got his start playing 3x3 basketball in 2019 with NY Harlem internationally in Mexico and China, among other countries, igniting the ride of a lifetime. The team began to develop a rapport and began winning tourneys. Brutus, who played one season of NCAA Division I basketball at Manhattan College, started making a name for himself.
However, a torn Achilles tendon in September 2020 — an injury some players never fully recover from — created an entirely new obstacle for Brutus.
“It was pretty hard,” he said. “A lot of lonely days. A lot of therapy. I was just so anxious. But when this 3x3 opportunity came, I had something to play for again. I felt like a real pro again.”
That said, the memory of that arduous rehab and long recovery still fuels Brutus today.
“I just sat in bed every day. I was like, ‘Man, is it over? I’m 33 years old. There’s not much I can do now. I’m already a bigger guard. I’m not that athletic.’ But I just worked extremely hard, did therapy, got a trainer and did whatever he told me to do. I just pushed myself.”
“I feel like I’m 100 percent and I’m ready to show what I can do for the country,” Brutus said. “I never thought I’d be in this predicament. I’m very grateful, very blessed. I’m happy. I never thought I’d be wearing the red, white and blue USA on my chest again.”
These days, Brutus isn’t just a standout on the 3x3 team. He’s also an ambassador of the sport.
“I run a gym in the Kingsbridge area,” Brutus said, referring to a neighborhood in the Bronx. “And I’m an assistant dean at a middle school. I introduced the 3x3 style to the kids — and they just wanted to play. They’ll say, ‘Let’s play 3x3, not full court.’ They’ve really taken to it.”
As has Brutus, of course. The 3x3 game has brought him to 12 different countries with the highly anticipated trip to Belgium coming up in late June.
“This is great,” he said. “They flew me out here. I didn’t think I was gonna make the team. I knew I played well at nationals, but I thought I’d just come out here and play for 2-3 days and then go home. But the fact that they accepted me is great. This is fun. I didn’t get to play 5-on-5 overseas, so this is my opportunity.”
Looking ahead to the Olympic Games Paris 2024, Brutus is willing to dream big. But he acknowledges, that’s for another day.
“It’s too far away. I’m just focused on the world cup right now,” he said. “Let’s win this gold medal and go from there.”
Drew Silverman is a freelance contributor to USAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.