MIAMI (USA) - 3x3 basketball is making its debut as an Olympic sport at the Tokyo 2020 Games, and USA Basketball has looked to their pool of all-star talent to make a foursome that is just as competitive as their gold medal winning basketball squad that will also be in Japan.
As previously announced, the players selected for this year's FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) include Allisha Gray, Katie Lou Samuelson (who was unavailable due to taking Perfumerias Avenida to the FIBA Euroleague Women Final Four), Stefanie Dolson and Kelsey Plum, who did not play in 2020 due to an Achilles injury and is making her return to training with this camp.
"I do feel strong and like I'm in shape, I’m definitely going out there and playing like I've never torn it and that’s my mentality going into these camps and will continue to be my mentality because I think that’s the only way you can play," said Plum.
2019 WNBA champions Natasha Cloud and Ariel Atkins joined the camp to help with training as well, but only four players are on the competition roster that can potentially make the Olympics if they finish in the top 3 of the OQT.
2008 Olympic Gold Medalist and current Duke University women's basketball head coach Kara Lawson will be coaching the 3x3 USA basketball team after leading the team to gold at the 3x3 event of the 2019 Pan-American Games
No coaches allowed on the floor, 12-second shot clocks, and only one substitute make 3x3 a much faster paced game. And USA have set the standard with not only their roster, but even those at training camp.
"I love 3x3 – how fast paced it is, how you have to be thinking the next two plays ahead, you have to pay attention to the score and fouls because you don’t have that much time, so it's really cool and I’ve been really excited to be a part of it," said Natasha Cloud.
The FIBA 3x3 World Cup was the first senior level event to be held for the sport. USA Basketball's success in the women's category (each 3x3 World Cup has both men and women playing at the same tournament) include gold medals in 2012 and 2014 and a bronze medal in 2016, while managing a 27-3 overall record. Players like Skylar Diggins-Smith, Sabrina Ionescu, Jewell Loyd and Chiney Ogwumike have also represented the U.S. in 3x3.
With an experienced pool of candidates for both the basketball and the 3x3 team, many of USA basketball’s talent won’t get to make the trip to Tokyo but participating in the camps and training is part of their greater plan to make their impact known for the team.
"Every kid who grows up here wants to represent USA across their chest, playing against the best and representing their country, so while I'm only on the training camp my hope is that I can find a spot somewhere in this family," Cloud said.
The first ever FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament will be held from May 26-30, 2021, in Graz, Austria. USA are in a very competitive pool with Germany (which may feature women's basketball star Satou Sabally), France (2-time FIBA 3x3 European champions), Indonesia and Uruguay.