U.S. Open Basketball Championships is About More Than The Wins And Losses
Many teams arrive at the U.S. Open Basketball Championships in Westfield and Noblesville, Indiana, with aspirations of taking home USA Basketball championship hardware.
Yet, for USA Basketball’s youth initiative, which attracted various teams from 24 different states and Canada, outside of the game scores and records, teams coalesce in Indiana for an experience that is both different and unforgettable.
“This tournament gives the kids memories,” Larry Brown, a coach for South Florida Elite’s 10th-grade boys team, said. “Only a select few come to play in these events. So, the memories of hanging out with your teammates, USA Basketball, the gear they are getting and the socialization all would not have happened if they didn’t play in this event.”
Winning is often placed at a premium in youth basketball, but what coaches aim to extract from a tournament that features 89 teams spread out over eight different divisions that play from July 13-17, doesn’t end at merely walking away from the weekend undefeated. The coaches around the U.S. Open Basketball Championships also aspire to see incremental growth from their players and embrace the challenge that comes with playing in a USA Basketball event.
“This is a big stage and a big deal, and this event creates that work ethic that makes players better,” said Mamie Hill, the head coach of the AL Southern Starz 2028 13U/12U girls team. “The main thing about playing here is getting them out of their comfort zone.”
To push teams towards expanding their games and helping young players grow, the U.S. Open Basketball Championships features adopted modified FIBA (International Basketball Federation) rules, including a shot clock as part of the game-to-game challenge.
“At USA Basketball, we do things at all levels from youth basketball up to our national teams,” Andrea Travelstead, associate director of youth and sport development, said. “We find it valuable, at this tournament, to use those modified FIBA rules to highlight it down through the youth space. Doing so allows teams, players and coaches an opportunity to see what the game is like at the national team level.
“A lot of these teams and coaches like the FIBA rules. It is different for them, and it takes a little getting used to. The rules change the style of play and the pace of the game, but it’s a nice way to give their kids a full taste of a USA Basketball run event.”
For some teams, items such as a shot clock have been welcomed additions to the game, while also being a rule change that has forced them to adjust.
“This is what it's all about – learning,” Hill said. “Playing with a shot clock, it teaches you to get the ball up the court. And it teaches you to work together toward getting a quick basket. We've never had to play with a shot clock at this age, and I think it's great.”
For Phillip Talleur, the coach of the 13U/12U girls Newport Rockets team, it isn’t the shot clock that has been an adjustment, instead, it’s the timeout rules that, for his team, will take some getting used to.
“The FIBA rules are unique in several respects, especially concerning timeouts,” Talleur said. “It’s a very interesting way to play basketball.”
Under the modified FIBA rules, timeouts can only be called by the coach through the scorer’s table during a dead ball. So, players cannot call a timeout to stop live game action and a timeout cannot be taken if you’re the team that has just scored.
As a result of the slight changes in the rules, teams often face a period of acclimation when playing at the U.S. Open Basketball Championships.
However, many coaches see it as part of a game and experience that can only help their team and players improve.
“It’s an adjustment,” Ronell Jacobs, coach of the PFA Lady Ballers in the 13U/12U girls division, said. “This is a learning experience. You are playing under different rules, against teams from across the country, and all in all, this is to help them get better and have fun.”
Outside of a memorable five days in July, the primary draw for teams that choose to play is the opportunity to play in a USA Basketball organized event. To many teams, it feels like a not-to-be-missed weekend.
“These kids watch USA Basketball,” Hill said. “So being a part of an event like this, it takes major sacrifices for families to get up here, but it’s worth it. Anytime you put the USA on something, it means something. It is a whole different level, and it’s not just any tournament.”