Carter, Youth Olympic Games Team Adjust To 'Different' Game
Colorado Springs, Colo. - June 15, 2010
A game of 3-on-3 seems simple. To hear it from Andraya Carter, this version is like a completely different sport.
Along with Carter (Buford H.S./Flowery Branch, Ga.), Briyona Canty (Trenton Catholic Academy/Willingboro, N.J.), Amber Henson (Sickles H.S./Tampa, Fla.) and Kiah Stokes (Linn Mar H.S./Marion, Iowa) are part of the inaugural U.S. Women's Youth Olympic Games Team, which will represent the USA in the women's basketball competition in the first-ever Youth Olympic Games in Singapore from Aug. 14-26.
The game they'll play -- 3-on-3 hoops -- is a recreational staple in gyms and on courts across the country. With Youth Olympic Games rules, however, the pick-up classic hasn't been as easy to, well, pick up.
'At first, it was really frustrating, just because it's kind of like a whole different sport,' said Carter, a 5-9, 145-pound guard committed to Tennessee. 'There's different rules and different ways to play. You don't have a bunch of other girls out there with you. I think it's harder, because there's only three of you out there on the court. There's nowhere to hide. If you're bad, everyone's gonna know. If you don't know what's going on, everyone's gonna be able to tell.'
During their first three days of training together at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, it was their coach -- Kathy Richey-Walton from Southwest Dekalb High School in Georgia -- who noticed the glitches.
And it's not because the players themselves aren't accomplished. Stokes was a part of the 2009 USA U16 National Team that won a gold medal in last year's FIBA Americas U16 Championship for Women. Both Carter and Canty participated in the trials for the 2009 U16 National Team, and Henson was named to Parade Magazine's 2010 All-America third team.
The team's early difficulties, rather, have come because of the players' unfamiliarity with the Youth Olympic Games' unique set of rules. Not to mention that each player is used to playing full-court, 5-on-5 games.
'It's been tough,' said Richey-Walton, who coached the USA White Team to a silver medal in the 2005 USA Basketball Women's Youth Development Festival. 'But fortunately we have some great kids, and they keep working hard. And they want to get it. They want to get better. But it's been tough to go from thinking about 5-on-5 to thinking about 3-on-3, so, we're working through the process. But, like I said, we got some good kids and we're going to get there.'
With Youth Olympic Games rules, 3-on-3 games are played on a half-court and last for two, five-minute periods. The first team to score 33 points, or the team that's leading after regular game time, wins. That's the simple part.
What's been difficult, from the players' and coach's point of view, is that each team is operating on a 10-second shot clock, and the ball must be brought out behind the 3-point line to score. The player who first gets the ball over the 3-point line, though, has to make one more pass before a bucket can count.
'The rules and the 10-second shot clock, it was hard at first. It went by so fast, and it was frustrating at first. But it's fun, it's different,' Carter said. 'I think we keep getting better. And it's kind of cool, because once we do something, we're like, 'That worked.' We can get excited about it. So, it's been just a whole different kind of experience for me.'
The Youth Olympic Games Team, which broke its training camp at the USOTC on June 15, will reassemble for another training camp in Springfield, Mass., from Aug. 6-9. Then, they'll leave for Singapore, where 19 other international teams, not to mention countless other unknown variables, await them.
"We just don't know all the things we need to prepare for, so we're trying to get ready for everything," Richey-Walton said. "We really don't know the size, the quickness, the style of play. It's just a lot. Even with three people, I mean, you multiply that times 20, and there's so many variables."
To help prepare for every kind of opponent, with size or with speed, the team brought in local men's players for the girls to practice against while in Colorado Springs.
"Playing against them is definitely going to prepare us to the different types of teams, because they have everything," Carter said. "Some teams are just going to be fast, some teams are just going to be big. They can do it all, so we had to be able to play both."
When the team reconvenes, Richey-Walton expects each player to be prepared.
"Basically, they have to understand the concepts, understand what's at stake and that they need to be the best athlete they have ever been in their life," Richey-Walton said. "Because we're representing the USA, and the only expectation we have is gold. They need to do whatever possible to get themselves ready."