Members of the Argentina basketball team attempt a slam dunk on October 15, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Carson McCorkle compared it to a soccer match. Sam Brunelle and Paige Bueckle both said it was crazy.
Call it what you want, Monday’s basketball shoot-out and dunk contests were a win-win for everyone involved.
Considered a grounds for innovation, the Youth Olympic Games are often adding new sports and events to the program, and trying out new formats, and they have done just that with basketball. The team format at the Games has been 3x3 since the first Youth Games in 2010. Four years later, in Nanjing, China, a dunk contest was added for men and a shoot-out for women. 3x3 will make its Olympic debut in less than two years at the Tokyo Games, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that dunk contests and shoot-outs could be next.
The Buenos Aires editions at the ever-popular Urban Park (which also featured BMX, sport climbing and break dancing) proved that both events are fan favorites, with droves of spectators showing up to cheer wildly for every competitor as 37 women from 20 nations competed in the shoot-out and 12 men from as many countries in the dunk contest.
“It’s awesome, it was like a soccer match almost, so it was really cool,” said Carson McCorkle, the lone American competing in the dunk contest. “It’s always fun to play in an environment like that.”
McCorkle came up just shy of the podium, finishing fourth.
Team USA had a similar fate in the shoot-out, with Bueckers in fourth and Brunelle seventh.
“It was crazy,” Bueckers said. “There was a lot of people. My arms were shaking the whole time I was shooting. I thought I did bad in the final round, but it was fun.”
“You’re still my winner,” yelled Brunelle, who, though competing against Bueckers in the shoot-out, is her teammate in 3x3.
Both women said they had never competed in anything like the Youth Olympic shoot-out. They had practiced a little throughout the week, shooting three-pointers, but nothing could prepare them for the big moment, which had both their arms shaking.
In the shoot-out, each woman shot 10 balls in qualification – five on each side of the court – with a time limit of 30 seconds. The four who landed the most in the fastest amount of time moved on to the final.
Brunelle, who has verbally committed to playing for NCAA champion Notre Dame next season, scored 5 points in 27.3 seconds.
Bueckers is a high school junior, and while not yet committed to a college, she’s the top ranked women’s basketball player in the class of 2020. She was second in qualification, with 7 points in 26.7 seconds.
In the final, Bueckers only managed 4 points of a total of 18 balls, but still held her head proudly after.
“It’s really awesome, out of all these countries, the whole world, to be able to show my best shooting ability,” she said. “I came up short in the final round but it’s still really an honor to be in the top four.”
In the dunk contest, each man had to complete two dunks in the qualification round. They had three attempts at each dunk and were judged by five judges. Scores were given out of 10, with the highest and lowest scores dropped and the remaining three added together.
Four moved on to the semifinals, which had the same format. Two then moved on to the final, where they did three dunks each.
McCorkle, a high school junior and Virginia commit, was second in qualification with 50 cumulative points from his two dunks. In the semi, he scored 47.
“I just kind of thought of what I thought I could do and kind of tried them in my practice to see what I could do, and then as you get into the dunk contest you almost think of it on the fly of what you think you’re most ready for,” McCorkle said of his strategy.
Next up for the U.S. basketball team at the Buenos Aires Games is the women’s 3x3 quarterfinal against the Netherlands Tuesday afternoon.
“Now that pool games are over, you lose and you’re out,” Bueckers said. “We’re excited to keep playing for the USA, playing for the gold medal.”