USA Women’s 3x3 National Team Set For Inaugural FIBA 3x3 World Championship
-- FIBA 3x3 World Championship To Be Held August 23-26 in Athens, Greece --
Colorado Springs, Colorado • Aug. 20, 2012
The members of the 2012 USA Basketball Women’s 3x3 National Team are no strangers to the game’s grandest stages. What is strange to them, however, is sharing the floor with only two teammates.
University of Notre Dame senior Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind.),University of Connecticut junior Bria Hartley (North Babylon, N.Y.), Stanford University junior Chiney Ogwumike (Cypress, Texas) and 2006 UConn graduate Ann Strother (Castle Rock, Colo.) have each played in the NCAA Final Four, with a combined eight Final Four appearances and two national championships among them.
Every accomplishment on the long résumés of each member of the 2012 USA 3x3 National Team came playing the traditional five-on-five version of the game. Now, they hope to break ground as the first team to win the FIBA 3x3 World Championship to be played Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 23-26, in Athens, Greece.
“I think we’ll look back at this when they’re playing it in the Olympics, and we’ll look back and realize we were the first to be in this thing,” said Diggins of the opportunity. “I think it’s exciting to go to Greece and see a different country. It’s a new experience; we’re trying to figure it out as we go. Hopefully we can be the first to win it; that’s the plan and hopefully it will be something we can talk about and future teams can talk about down the line.”
Aside from the obvious absence of two players on each side, the 3x3 game presents fundamental differences from the five-on-five game that the U.S. team is accustomed to. Games go for either 10 minutes, or until one team scores 21 points (free throws and field goals inside the arc are worth one point, made field goals from beyond the arc are two points). Other FIBA 3x3 rules include a 12-second shot clock and the ball remaining live following a made shot. After a free throw or field goal is made, the opposing team grabs the ball out of the net and must clear it beyond the two-point arc, all while the shot clock is running. The rules yield a frenetic pace.
“This game is such a different game; it’s quicker,” said Diggins. “You definitely have to think; it’s more mental. In this situation, with the shorter shot clock, you only have seconds to get into what you want to do, and only have so many dead ball opportunities to actually set up an offense. It’s more about strategizing than anything.”
“I think 3x3 is a great way to learn basketball in general,” added Hartley. “I know at our practices (at Connecticut), a lot of the things we do, offensively and defensively, we work on 3x3 first, and then move it into five-on-five. The game is a lot more mental and I think it helps you become a better player.”
Each of the four members of the U.S. 3x3 National Team competed in the inaugural USA Basketball 3x3 National Team Tournament on July 8 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., and then reconvened for a training camp at Sand Creek High School in Colorado Springs from Aug. 17-20 to continue their crash course in the 3x3 game. The training camp was run by 2012 USA Basketball 3x3 National Team Committee member, and experienced international 3x3 player, Joe Lewandowski (Cheswick, Pa.).
“I think this weekend was like a boot camp,” said Ogwumike. “It’s great, but it’s a practice with only four girls. We’re so used to having 10 or 12. Being able to have a lot of individual time, but also a lot of time to understand each other player’s tendencies and strengths and weaknesses, it’s been great. We’ve been pushed and, training in Colorado, the altitude has been getting to us, but we’re pushing past the obstacles and trying to get the rust off to be in the best possible shape when go to Greece.”
Despite it being the first open (no age restriction) FIBA 3x3 World Championship, each member of the U.S. 3x3 Women’s National Team has played with USA Basketball before and knows the success and reputation of USA Basketball in other events will create a large target on their backs.
“Any time you’re playing, there will be a target on your back and people will be trying to defeat you,” said Hartley. “We just have to make sure when we go out there and play, we’re giving them our best game every time. The main thing in playing international basketball, you can’t have any mercy. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, you have to go out there and try to win right away, especially in 3x3, because anything can happen.”
In their prior experiences with USA Basketball, Diggins and Ogwumike were teammates on the 2011 USA World University Games Team that captured gold, Hartley and Ogwumike were teammates on the gold medalist 2010 USA FIBA Americas U18 Championship Team, Hartley played on the 2011 USA FIBA U19 World Championship Team that won gold and Diggins played on both the 2009 USA FIBA U19 World Championship and the 2008 USA FIBA Americas U18 Championship teams that won gold.
Strother is playing with USA Basketball for the first time since the 2003 Pan American Games, where she helped her team to the silver medal. Strother also represented the U.S. at the 2001 Junior World Championship, where the U.S. took bronze.
While the three members of the U.S. team still in college will be looking to compete against one another at the 2013 Final Four, as was the case when all three played in the 2012 Final Four, Strother hopes to be putting her soon-to-be-completed nursing school degree to use.
Strother, who was a member of two national champions at Connecticut from 2002-06 and played in the WNBA from 2006-08, returned to her hometown of Castle Rock, Colo., following her basketball career, and believed that her days of playing basketball at this level were past her.
“I’m in nursing school and doing that right now,” said Strother. “I moved back to Colorado and kind of stopped playing, but I’ve played here and there. My boyfriend plays a lot so he has kind of kept me in it. At this level, and with these players, is definitely an honor.”
Strother participated against her three USA 3x3 teammates in the USA National Team Tournament on July 8, but then was asked to join the USA team after Alyssa Thomas (University of Maryland/Harrisburg, Pa.) had to pull out of the event. She now will be seeking the gold that has eluded her in her previous two events with USA Basketball.
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 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 preliminary round group advance to the Eight Finals to be played on Aug. 25, with winners advancing on to the quarterfinals that will also be played Aug. 24. The semifinals, and the bronze and gold medal games, will be played Aug. 26.
Departing for Athens Monday, the first-ever USA Women’s 3x3 National Team hopes to return home a week later as the first to wear FIBA 3x3 World Championship gold medals around their necks.