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Why You Need To Check Out The 3x3 Basketball Competition At The Youth Olympic Games

By Karen Price | Oct. 05, 2018, 1:55 p.m. (ET)

Paige Bueckers competes at the 2018 USA Women's 3x3 U18 Nationals during March 2018 in Colorado Springs, Colo.


The Youth Olympic Games are all about celebrating the future.

The athletes, all between ages 14 and 18, include some of the most talented teenagers in the world. Several new events, too, are showcased at the Youth Olympic level before moving on to the Olympic level.

All of that applies to the 3x3 basketball competition taking place at the Summer Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018, which began Saturday and run through Oct. 18.

The sport made its debut at the Youth Olympic Games in 2010, and Team USA’s participants have gone on to Division I and even professional basketball careers. This year is likely to be no exception, and some of the stars might even move on to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, where the discipline makes its Olympic debut.

Here, we take a quick look at what 3x3 basketball is all about. 

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What Is 3x3 Basketball Anyway?
A discipline that’s growing in popularity not only in the U.S., with the rise of the BIG3 basketball league featuring many former NBA players, but also internationally with the FIBA 3x3 World Cup and the sport’s addition to the 2020 Olympic schedule.

Many of the same FIBA rules that apply to traditional basketball apply to 3x3 basketball, with several notable exceptions. Each team has four players, with three on the court and one substitute, and they play only on half the court using one basket. Shots inside the arc get one point; shots outside the arc get two. The balls used in 3x3 are the size of the traditional women’s ball and the weight of the traditional men’s ball. The first team to score 21 points wins. If no team has 21 points after 10 minutes, the team with the highest score wins.

There are other differences between 3x3 and full-court ball, including how the games start, a 12-second shot clock and how certain in-game situations are handled. There are a number of videos on YouTube that explain the rules in greater detail.


Why Is FIBA So Excited About 3x3?
For one, with fewer players needed in order to field a team it means that many smaller nations will have a better chance to compete at the highest level than they might in traditional basketball.

FIBA debuted the 3x3 World Cup, then known then as the 3x3 World Championship, in 2012. Since then Serbia has won four of the five men’s titles with Qatar winning the other. Although Serbia has dominated the top of the podium, six other countries have medaled, including Team USA. The others are France, the Netherlands, Russia, Slovenia and Ukraine.

In the women’s competition, the U.S. won the first two titles followed by the Czech Republic, Russia and Italy. France, Ukraine, Hungary, Australia and Belgium have also medaled.

Also, the game is played at a faster pace than full-court basketball, and since the first team to 21 wins, each individual shot and basket has greater implications than in a traditional game. That can make it even more exciting for viewers and spectators, which also can help grow the sport.


Who Is Playing For The U.S. In Buenos Aires?
A lot of players you can expect to see on major Division I rosters in the coming years.

Representing the U.S. will be the men’s and women’s 2018 U18 3x3 national champions.

On the men’s side, that is Patrick McCaffery, of Iowa City, Iowa; Dudley Blackwell, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Jyare Davis, of Hockessin, Delaware; and Carson McCorkle, of Greensboro, North Carolina. 

McCaffery is a 6-foot-7 Iowa recruit who Rivals ranks the No. 64 recruit for the Class of 2019. He’s also the son of Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery. McCorkle, 16, is a sophomore who recently made a verbal commitment to Virginia. Blackwell is a junior whose offers currently include Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Florida Gulf Coast. Davis, also a junior, had already received offers from Florida, Miami and St. John’s before his sophomore year.

The women’s team consists Aliyah Boston, of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; Samantha Brunelle, of Ruckersville, Virginia; Paige Bueckers, of Eden Prairie, Minnesota; and Hailey Van Lith, of Wenatchee, Wisconsin. All four are among HoopGurlz’ top-ranked recruits in the country.

Boston, a senior, is No. 3 in the nation from the Class of 2019 and is still undecided amongst the cream of the crop of women’s college basketball, considering Connecticut, Notre Dame, Ohio State and South Carolina. Brunelle, who will play for Notre Dame beginning next season, is ranked just below her at No. 4. Bueckers is the top-ranked recruit in the country from the Class of 2020, and Van Lith comes in at No. 3 from the same class. 


How Has The U.S. Fared In The Past?
The U.S. women are 19-1 combined at the past two Youth Olympic Games, winning gold in 2014 and bronze in 2010. Past participants include 2010 team member Kiah Stokes, who went on to play four years at Connecticut and is now a member of the WNBA’s New York Liberty, as well as 2014 title winner Arike Ogunbowale, who gained national fame last year by hitting two late game-winning shots as Notre Dame beat first Connecticut then South Carolina — on her 3-pointer buzzer beater — to claim the NCAA title. She then competed on “Dancing with the Stars.”

The men finished fourth in 2010 and did not play in 2014. All four players went on to play Division I, including Sterling Gibbs (Seton Hall and Connecticut) and Brandon Kearney (Michigan State and Arizona State). 

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

Related Athletes

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Pat McCaffery

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Dudley Blackwell

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Jyare Davis

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Carson McCorkle

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Aliyah Boston

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Sam Brunelle

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Paige Bueckers

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Hailey Van Lith