USA Basketball 3x3 Hoops Ready for Busy Summer Schedule
There are not many brands of basketball where the United States hasn’t led the way, historically.
In fact, 3x3 basketball might be the only one.
Americans had barely adopted the sport when Jay Demings took over as the USA Basketball 3x3 director in 2016.
But fast-forward six years and the United States boasts the reigning World Cup champions on the men’s side and the defending Olympic champions on the women’s side.
“We’re catching up quick,” Demings said.
And that’s a good thing, because 3x3 basketball is heading into a busy and important summer.
“We’ve got a lot of teams to put together this summer,” Demings said. “In addition to our open teams for the World Cup — men’s and women’s — we’ll have our professional teams, our men’s pro tour team coached by Fran Fraschilla and our women’s pro team coached by Jen Rizzotti.”
In all, USA Basketball will be fielding 13 national 3x3 teams over the next several months.
Thus, it makes sense that one of the goals for Demings is to expand the available player pool. By continuing to grow the game domestically — including a variety of tournaments and specific coaching aimed at the nuances of 3x3 play — USA Basketball hopes to get more individuals, more college teams and even more professional squads interested in the sport.
“We’re trying to build out the ecosystem to get more players in the 3x3 pipeline, if you will,” said Jim Tooley, CEO of USA Basketball, “and we’re excited about the growth of that.”
Upcoming events this summer include the Under-23 Nation’s League, the Under-18 World Cup, the Under-17 AmeriCup and the Open AmeriCup.
The men’s and women’s are not in identical situations, but essentially on both sides, USA Basketball is stressing player availability for the upcoming FIBA events to help the American teams continue to qualify for premier events such as the FIBA 3x3 World Cup, which takes place in Belgium in late June, and, ultimately, the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“This is all part of a long journey,” Tooley said, “that hopefully is leading us to Paris 2024. (This summer’s schedule) gives different groups of players an opportunity to represent our country at a variety of international events, but it gives them an opportunity to be an Olympian, as well.”
This summer also presents an opportunity for Fraschilla and Rizzotti, who were named head coaches of their respective squads in early May. Fraschilla, a veteran college coach and TV analyst, is making his USA Basketball debut. Rizzotti, meanwhile, has previously served as an assistant with the five-on-five team but will be serving as a 3x3 coach for the first time.
“We’re going to try to get better at this game. We’re only at the infancy from the standpoint of USA Basketball,” said Fraschilla, who will form a primary six-man squad and will take four players at a time to various tournaments over the summer. “We want to get experience. That’s the key. We’re just trying to gain experience playing 3x3.”
“I’m enjoying the challenge. It has not been easy, but it’s been a lot of fun,” Rizzotti said. “It feels like a different game. I know it’s basketball, so I have that foundation, but you coach it entirely differently.”
The American women went 8-1 in Tokyo and won the first ever 3x3 women’s gold medal. However, there certainly is room for growth on the women’s side, as well.
“We want to do everything we can to put the best team forward,” said Lindsay Whalen, a member of the USA Basketball 3x3 women’s selection committee. “It’s great that we have a nice pool of players, but we’re going to have some tough decisions, there’s no question. The good thing for us is we have so many talented women we can choose from to formulate the roster and put our best foot forward on the global level.”
Even the players acknowledge the advancements of 3x3 hoops in the U.S.
“This was, by far, one of the most talented 3X Nationals there ever has been,” said Dominique Jones, the MVP of the men’s 3X Nationals in mid-May and a seven-year veteran of the 3x3 game.
“Last year I felt very different. I was very unfamiliar with the game,” added Kianna Smith, the MVP of the women’s 3X Nationals. “This year was a lot of fun now that I knew how to play. … I’m really happy that I got a chance to come out here and play.”
Naturally, the thrill of representing their country is another exciting element of the 3x3 experience for all involved.
“I love America and to be able to put the USA shirt on, I always wanted to be a part of this,” Fraschilla said. “When Jim Tooley called me to offer me the position, I was all in. ... Our goal and my goal certainly individually … we want to win an Olympic gold.”
“(As a team) when we wear that USA jersey, we’ve got to make sure we know it’s not just about us. It’s about USA Basketball.