Larry Austin is Striving for More Gold
Sept. 26, 2012 • Colorado Springs, Colo.
A member of the 2011-12 USA Basketball Developmental National Team, Larry Austin was a starter on the 2011 USA U16 National Team that captured the gold medal at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship. He averaged 7.2 points a game and ranked third among all tournament participants in assists with 4.4 dishes per outing. So, imagine the disappointment when on June 17 Austin found out he wasn’t going to be among the 12 players selected to represent USA Basketball at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship.
Things started looking up, however, when he received a call to participate in the 2012 USA Basketball U18 3x3 National Team Men’s Tournament to be held July 30-31 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“It motivated me a lot,” said Austin. “I just got back in the gym and started working harder than I was. Now, I’m back out here, and I’m going to go and try and get the gold at the 3x3 (U18 World Championship).”
Even though he admits he didn’t know much about the 3x3 game, which is played to 10 minutes or 21 points, whichever comes first, features a 12-second shot clock, and uses just half of a court, the 6-1 guard from Springfield, Ill., jumped at the chance to return to USA Basketball.
“It was an automatic yes,” he recalled. “It’s just such an honor to come out here and play for the USA team. Knowing that I didn’t make the other team, I wanted to play for the USA, so I came out. There was no question about it.”
And now that Lanphier High School’s 2012 Associated Press Illinois Class 3A All-State honorable mention knows more about the 3x3 game?
“I like this style of game a lot. It gives us a lot of chances to score and score quickly, get back, get buckets. It’s pretty good.”
Austin, along with USA DNT teammates DeMonte Flannigan and Rondaé Hollis-Jefferson powered through the tournament with an 8-0 record and were named to the 2012 USA Basketball 3x3 U18 World Championship Team along with Brett Brady, an outside threat from the TCI team.
“Brett, he fits in pretty good with us,” Austin stated. “He can shoot the ball really well. When we need to knock down shots, we can pass it out to him. He can attack also and look for the open shot or pass it back out to the open guy.”
Now, following three days of practice in Colorado Springs, Austin and his teammates are en route to Spain, where they’ll play in the 2012 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship Sept. 28-30 in Alcobendas, located near Madrid.
The USA men have drawn Group D, and will take on Hungary, Turkey, Spain and Israel on Sept. 28, before wrapping up its preliminary round pool play against Germany, Italy and Brazil on Sept. 29.
Playing in Group A will be Belize, Canada, China, France, Iran, New Zealand, Poland and Slovakia; Group B consists of Angola, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Tunisia; while Group C features Australia, Estonia, Jordan, Lithuania, Russia, Singapore, Switzerland and Venezuela.
The competition can be tough, however. Nations that might not be able to field a competitive 12-member team for five-on-five basketball have been able to put together four-member squads for 3x3 competitions. In fact, at the inaugural FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship, then dubbed the 2011 FIBA 3x3 Youth World Championship, the top three teams were New Zealand, Bulgaria and Italy, respectively. In fourth place was Estonia. The top-finishing traditional hoops powerhouse was fifth-placed Russia.
That’s why it’s important not to overlook an opponent. That and the fact that with a 10-minute game it’s easy for one team to mount a quick comeback if the other team lapses for just a single minute.
“The guys over there, they’re pretty strong,” Austin stated when he asked what he knew about the competition. “They can shoot it pretty well. You really gotta get out on them. You just can’t get tired. If you get tired, you have to sub out really quick, so you don’t give up a play. We just have to sub in and out smart. The last game we played (in training camp), we subbed in and out really well and got our second wind. If we sub in and out well, I think that will help us be pretty good.”
“I didn’t ever think I would ever have this opportunity (to play in a 3x3 U18 World Championship)”, he added. “I didn’t even know about it until last year. And then as soon as I made the U16 team last year, I didn’t think I’d be playing 3x3 this year. But I’m out here this year and it’s great.”
Not lost on Austin or the rest of the team is the fact that at the inaugural 2011 3x3 U18 Worlds, the USA Basketball team that included Hollis-Jefferson finished with a 7-5 record and in eighth place. That team, however, was made up of 16-and-unders going up against guys one or two years older than them.
“I think it’ll help us a lot (being closer in age to the competition),” said Austin, who is still 16 years old. “Rondaé (17) and DeMonte (17) are both older than me and Brett (18) is older than all of us. Rondaé, he has experience from last year’s 3x3 and he did pretty well. I feel like I’ve been playing up all my life, so I think I’ll do pretty well over there.”
Austin is hoping to accomplish a lot in his career, however, he said he has one thing on his mind as he prepares to tip-off the 2012 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship on Friday: “Win the gold.”