Basketball 3x3 prepares for Summer Olympics debut at Tokyo 2020

BUENOS AIRES — The 3x3 Basketball competition at the Youth Olympic Games has provided an indication of how teams will approach the event when it makes its full debut at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

Countries have been picking their best 5-a-side players and training them to play the 3x3 version in hope that their skills will lead them to victory at the 2018 Buenos Aires Games.

The 3x3 competition, which takes place on a half-court with three players per team, has been part of the Youth Olympics since the inaugural Games in Singapore in 2010.

Although Buenos Aires marks the third time 3x3 has featured in the Youth Games, countries are still sending their best five-a-side female players.

“We’re all five-by-five players, we have never played 3x3 in our life,” said Suzi-Rose Deegan, a member of the Australian women’s 3x3 Basketball side. “They just picked us based on our skillset and we came up.”
The USA Women’s 3x3 Basketball team celebrate after defeating the Netherlands in the Women’s 3x3 Baksetball quarterfinals at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo: Lachlan McKirdy/IOC Young Reporters)

That doesn’t seem to have mattered, though, as Australia advanced to Wednesday’s semi-finals against France after beating Ukraine 16–6 in Tuesday’s quarter-finals.

It is a method that has been employed by a number of teams, including the USA, who beat the Netherlands 18–14 on Tuesday and will face China in the semi-finals.

“None of us have done 3x3 before, so it’s new to all of us,” said Aliyah Boston of the USA team.

Boston, a 6-foot-4 forward from Worcester Academy in Massachusetts and one of the top young prospects in the United States, enjoys the difference from the traditional five-a-side format.

“There’s just so much more to it than it looks, so it’s just interesting,” she said.

The young 3x3 stars have been drawing big crowds every day in Buenos Aires, and there’s every chance that they could be doing the same at Tokyo 2020 or Paris 2024.

“Yeah, we were so happy when they announced it was going to be an Olympic sport,” said Evelien Lutje Schipholt, a member of the Netherlands team in Buenos Aires. “We can’t wait to be there. I think Tokyo 2020 might be too soon for us but 2024 is our goal.”

While 3x3 Basketball is still formulating ways to encourage junior players in the sport, Deegan, the Australian player, is confident that countries soon won’t have to rely on five-a-side players.

“(I hope we can) build a pathway for younger girls, because we didn’t have that experience growing up,” Deegan said. “(We) played five-on-five the whole time, so to have a 3x3 pathway being formed for kids coming up, I mean think about how good Australia is going to get.”

Story by IOC Young Reporter Lachlan McKirdy