Different Paths Lead To USA Basketball Men’s 3x3 National Team
-- FIBA 3x3 World Championship To Be Held August 23-26 in Athens, Greece --
Colorado Springs, Colorado • Aug. 21, 2012
A myriad of different paths, including five years in minor league baseball and an All-American track and field career, have led the four members of the USA Basketball Men’s 3x3 National Team together where they will now compete in the inaugural FIBA 3x3 World Championship.
Playing in the Desert Pro Am League in the Phoenix, Ariz., area, Adetayo Adesanya (Naperville, Ill.), Tyree Hardge (Surprise, Ariz.) and Allen DuBois Williams (Tempe, Ariz.) earned an invitation to the 2012 USA Basketball 3x3 National Team Tournament that was held July 6-8 in Colorado Springs, Colo. Since each 3x3 team was allowed four players, Hardge reconnected with an old friend, Ira Brown (Corsicana, Texas), and invited him to join the team in Colorado Springs.
“Me and Tayo (Adesanya) had been playing together for about eight months in the pro am league down there, then Allen came down there and played with us,” said Hardge. “We connected and us three were asked to go (to the USA Basketball 3x3 National Team Tournament) after that. A simple call was made to Brown about the situation. He’s living in Spokane, Wash., now. Me knowing Ira and his credentials, he was a perfect fit for this team. We got together on Wednesday (July 4) then made the flight on Friday (July 6) to the tournament in Colorado Springs.”
Initially, Brown was leery of the offer.
“He called me and asked if I wanted to play in a 3x3 tournament with USA Basketball,” said Brown. “I told him, ‘There’s no 3x3 at USA Basketball.’ We started talking and he told me this was serious, and told me if I wanted on they would love to have me because they didn’t know if they could do it without me. I was kind of skeptical about it but then he gave me some more information and I told him I definitely want to be a part of that. We came over and ended up winning the whole thing (the USA Basketball 3x3 National Team Tournament) . We have a lot of talent on our team, some great players and great attitudes. We’re looking forward to heading over to Greece and making some noise over there.”
The team, Desert Pro-Am, went 8-0 and won the first-ever USA Basketball 3x3 National Team Tournament, and was later being named by USA Basketball as the 2012 USA 3x3 Men’s National Team that would represent the U.S. at the FIBA 3x3 World Championship to be played Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 23-26, in Athens, Greece.
“I’m not even sure if I have words for that. I’m very excited to represent my country,” said Hardge of the opportunity to wear the USA uniform. “There are a lot of athletes in the world who do a lot of great things, but will never be able to represent their country the way we will represent in this upcoming tournament. I’m excited and want to give everything I have to it.”
The start of Brown and Hardge’s relationship also contributed to end of Brown’s professional baseball career.
Brown, a three-sport star at Willis H.S. in Conroe, Texas, was drafted as a pitcher by the Kansas City Royals in the eighth round of the 2001 Major League Baseball Draft. Brown gave himself a five-year window to advance to the major leagues before he would pursue different options. In 2004, while playing baseball in Arizona, Brown began playing pick-up basketball with Hardge.
“When I was in baseball, I wasn’t really supposed to be playing basketball, of course,” said Brown, “but I always went to sneak around because I have so much passion for the game. I met Tyree at Surprise Recreational Center. He and I used to play every day and it was always competitive. At the time, I was just an athlete, just dunking. Tyree had all the skills in the world, still does. He introduced me to Phoenix College so I went over to Phoenix and started playing pick-up. The coach was like, ‘Hey, what are you doing? You should come play for us.’ I told him, ‘I’m still playing baseball, but I’ll think about it and see what happens,’ because I was at the end of my career in baseball. The following year it ended up happening due to injuries and stuff. I chose Phoenix College because I was in that area and knew quite a few of the players.”
Brown and Hardge teamed at Phoenix College for the 2005-06 season and led the Bears to its first appearance at the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II National Championships since 1965. Hardge then transferred to Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla., while Brown earned NJCAA All-America first-team honors and led Phoenix College back to the NJCAA Division II National Championships in 2006-07 before transferring to Gonzaga University. Brown played two seasons with the Bulldogs, seeing action in all 34 games as a senior in 2008-09 to help Gonzaga reach the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament.
A fourth round pick in the 2009 NBA D-League Draft, Brown opted instead to play professionally overseas and has played for clubs in the Philippines, Mexico, Argentina and, most recently, Japan.
Brown is not the only member of the USA 3x3 Team with experience playing internationally. Williams, who earned All-California Collegiate Athletic Association honors for the 2008-09 season at Cal State University, San Bernardino after previously playing at Saint Mary’s College and Arizona State University, toured with the Harlem Globetrotters as a member of the Washington Generals in 2011. The tour stopped in 41 cities in the U.S., in addition to several countries on the Globetrotters’ European tour.
“You get used to playing a lot of games and playing while you’re tired,” Williams said of how his experience with the Generals will help him prepare for the 3x3 World Championship. “You also get used to playing in front of people, which is a big part of it, learning how to play in front of crowds and under pressure.”
While Brown, Hardge and Williams all played basketball collegiately, Adesanya excelled at another sport. Despite playing basketball through high school, Adesanya saw track and field as the best option to allow him to pursue an engineering degree. Adesanya attended Purdue University where he earned his degree and was a standout in the high jump. Adesanya won the 2008 Big Ten Indoor Championship and earned All-America honors with a fifth-place finish at the 2009 NCAA Outdoor Championship, clearing 2.20 meters (7' 2.6").
Throughout his track and field career at Purdue, Adesanya maintained a desire to play basketball.
“I did as best as I could (in track and field), and I’m very proud of my achievements there,” Adesanya said. “I always had the natural, deep down feeling inside me that wanted to continue with basketball. Being on the court just seems more natural. Everything seems to come together for me. After pursuing it recreationally while working after college, it sort of opened up doors and I’m here today.”
The chance to represent the USA in the first FIBA 3x3 World Championship is an opportunity that all four members of the squad are grateful for, especially considering the journeys that led them to this moment.
“There have been so many people through the years that didn’t believe in me and didn’t believe I had the skills,” said Adesanya. “Sticking with it behind the scenes puts me in this position where I’m proud of my situation. I didn’t follow the traditional route; I kind of hung in there, with my mom’s strength of words, stuck my head in there grinding it out. A lot of people wouldn’t believe where I’m at right now, and I’m blessed and thankful.”
The four members of the 2012 USA Men’s 3x3 National Team certainly traveled different paths, but a shared passion for basketball allowed those paths to converge in Athens, Greece, at the inaugural FIBA 3x3 World Championship.About the FIBA 3x3 World Championship
The inaugural FIBA 3x3 World Championship features 24 men’s teams and 24 women’s national teams divided into four preliminary round groups of six teams each. The U.S. men open against Turkey and Egypt on Aug. 23, then face England and Lebanon on Aug. 24, and close out preliminary play Aug. 25 against Romania. The USA women open Aug. 23 and play Germany and Angola, then will take on Sri Lanka and Argentina on Aug. 24, and will conclude preliminary play versus Netherlands on Aug. 25. The top four finishing teams from each group advance to the Eight Finals to be played on Aug. 25, with winners advancing to the quarterfinals that will also be played Aug. 24. The semifinals, and the bronze and gold medal games, will be played Aug. 26.