Sarah Strong’s passion for trying something different, embracing 3x3
Sarah Strong’s desire to play 3x3 basketball started long before team trials for the 2022 USA Basketball 3x3 Women’s U18 National Team.
It started in 2019, during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend when her team played in a 3x3 tournament and won. Stefanie Dolson, a two-time WNBA All-Star, a USA Basketball mainstay and the first 3x3 Olympic in 2020champion, was handing out medals.
Strong enjoyed winning the tournament, but also revered that time with Dolson, not for its specificities but for the spirit and candor the moment possessed.
“It wasn’t as competitive as it is now, but we won,” Strong, 16, reminisced. “Before that moment, I never really knew anything about 3x3.”
Present for that day was Strong’s mother and former WNBA All-Star Allison Feaster, who recalls the touchpoint with Dolson as consequential to her daughter’s path into an avenue like 3x3 basketball.
“When you can touch a current national team player or a WNBA star who is giving back and investing in the youth, that’s where sparks are ignited,” Feaster said. “It’s apparent that Sarah gained something from that interaction and from that experience, and, hopefully, that carries over into her experience with the USA National Team.”
Strong comes from a family that knows basketball well. With her mother playing in the WNBA and her father, Danny Strong, playing at North Carolina State as well as overseas, the game came naturally to Sarah.
However, early on, her parents pushed her not to follow the pathway they took in basketball. Instead, both implored her to find what excites her around the game and follow it.
Intrigue and curiosity led her to 3x3.
“I wanted to be involved in something around USA Basketball,” she said. “So, when they called to tell me I was on the team, I was excited.
“I wouldn’t expect to be playing in the U18 3x3, but I was very happy and am really ready to just go and play.”
Her philosophy surrounding basketball is simple. She wants to try everything at least once.
Exploration allows her to see different forms of basketball that, when added to her established skill set, are conducive to continuous learning.
Omnipresent in Strong is a desire to be a student of the game she’s loved since she was a kid.
As a top recruit in the class of 2024, she led Grace Christian High School in Sanford, N.C., to a NCISAA Division I state title last winter while also being named first team All-State.
Despite her early accomplishments as a high school player, she remains single-minded in her approach to continuous improvement.
And to her, 3x3 is yet another growth opportunity.
The speed of the game forces more movement. Meanwhile, the intimacy of a smaller team requires more trust. For Strong, that means her time spent playing 3x3 will require her to be adept at maneuvering off the ball while also creating quality shots in a faster paced game.
All of which are skills she feels are interchangeable in the future, whether playing 3x3 or five-on-five.
“3x3 is very fast paced,” Strong said. “You can’t stay in one spot. I know that I'm going to learn a lot about backdoor cuts, moving without the ball and staying active. It’ll help me so much.”
Feaster sees playing high-level 3x3 basketball as an opportunity to allow her daughter to experience the game differently compared to how she played and practiced growing up.
When she was playing at the high school level, 3x3 was a version of the game reserved for the parks. Therefore, her daughter having an opportunity to play quality and competitive 3x3 is an “added layer to her development,” she said.
In addition, Feaster also views it as an empowering moment for her daughter, whom she wants to continue making her journey in basketball her own.
“For Sarah, this is certainly the pinnacle of achievements for someone her age,” Feaster said. “It’s her journey.”
And it’s a voyage that has now come full circle.
Born in Spain and holding dual citizenship with France, Strong’s basketball career has roots in Europe.
She grew up participating in both soccer and basketball at an early age internationally, and it’s influenced the way she plays the game now, Feaster said.
Contributing to the desire to play 3x3 is also a longing to get back to where her love of basketball began.
With the 2022 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup taking place Aug. 23-28 in Debrecen, Hungary, Feaster understands that her daughter playing with USA Basketball is an opportunity to visualize what it means to be a global citizen through embracing the various cultures that have or will influence her career.
“Sarah’s origins are in European basketball,” Feaster said. “While she doesn’t have any direct experience in Hungary, she certainly does have experience playing internationally. I want her to get back in touch with that – with her roots, so to speak. This is her first experience back in Europe playing basketball, so it’s an opportunity for her to reconnect with that.”
Strong’s desire to play 3x3 started in 2019 and, three years later, it has become an integral part of her basketball story.
Her next chapter is focused on winning a gold medal with the U.S. in her first World Cup.
“It’s my journey,” she said. “I just want to get out there and start playing.”