Monday, July 22, 2024

Olympics-Revamped U.S. 3×3 basketball team aiming for golden debut in Paris

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By Angelica Medina

(Reuters) – The U.S. men’s 3×3 basketball team will make their Olympic debut with a revamped and unconventional squad seeking redemption in Paris after failing to qualify for Tokyo.

The key to the team’s resurgence lies less in their training or tactics and more in the non-traditional backgrounds of their players, who have rediscovered their passion for basketball through the popular street sport.

The squad will look to do for 3×3 what Michael Jordan’s ‘Dream Team’ did for basketball at Barcelona ’92, taking the game to new heights of popularity as they battle world number one Serbia and Tokyo gold medallists Latvia.

Serbia, who lifted the European title in September, have emerged as the heavyweights to beat, with World Player of the Year ‘Doctor Strange’ Strahinja Stojacic leading the way.

The Americans will be hoping to emulate their female counterparts, who made history in 2021 by becoming the first women’s team to win Olympic gold.

The women’s roster, featuring Cameron Brink, Cierra Burdick, Rhyne Howard and Hailey Van Lith, has a mix of WNBA experience and college basketball success that should help them retain their title against assertive China and hosts France.

The new-look men’s team has undoubtedly been transformed into serious contender with the arrival of Jimmer Fredette.

The 35-year-old led them to a silver medal at the 2023 World Cup, as well as gold medals at the 2022 AmeriCup and last year’s Pan American Games in Chile, which secured their place in Paris.


It was only two years ago that Fredette discovered 3X3, having played for five years in the National Basketball Association (NBA) before a stint in the Chinese Basketball Association.

He quickly picked up the nuances of the fast-paced sport, and in December was named U.S. 3×3 Basketball’s Male Athlete of the Year.

“At first, I didn’t really know what I was doing. It’s very fast-paced and very competitive. And the two-pointer is worth so much more than the one, so for me it’s perfect. I feel like it fits my game very well,” Fredette told Team USA in March after being named in the squad for the Summer Games.

Fredette is not the only unlikely element of the U.S. squad. Kareem Maddox, 34, spent three years as a broadcaster and producer for National Public Radio before returning to training and chasing his Olympic dream ahead of the Tokyo Games.

Also with a singular back story is Canyon Barry, an engineer at aerospace and defence company L3Harris and son of Hall of Famer Rick Barry.

“In the Barry family, it’s hard to do something in the basketball realm that hasn’t been previously accomplished, whether it’s winning NBA championships or playing in the All-Star Game. So to become an Olympian and kind of round out that portfolio, is a cool treat,” Canyon said.

Maddox and Barry, who featured in the quarter-final defeat by the Netherlands in the qualifying tournament that saw them miss out on 3X3’s Olympic debut in 2021, will lead the bid for redemption alongside the last of the roster, Dylan Travis.

A former special education teacher and high school basketball coach, the 31-year-old gave up the sport after playing professionally in Germany and Australia because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He thought his playing days were over, but got back into the game after discovering 3×3 on the weekends and was invited to USA Basketball’s 2020 training camp with a view to being selected for the national team.

The foursome will make their debut at the iconic Place de la Concorde, where Basketball 3×3 will be held from July 30-Aug. 5.

(Reporting by Angelica Medina in Mexico City; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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