Trivia question: the last Ivy League hoopster to play for the U.S. in men’s basketball in the Olympics was? If you said Princeton’s Bill Bradley you would be right. Even with the recent success of Harvard, Columbia, Yale and of course Princeton in Ivy league basketball, the road to Olympic greatness is probably better found in other sports; until now. (Apologies to the Tigers’ great Konrad Wysocki, who played in five games for Germany in Beijing in 2008, h/t Stuart in Princeton!)
With the inclusion of three on three basketball as a discipline for the Tokyo 2020 Games, some elite Ivy leaguers, especially those around the fertile hoops grounds in Central Jersey, may be on that road again, and may take another step towards Tokyo next weekend in of all places, a mall outside of San Jose, California.
An organization called 3BALL USA recently announced plans to develop the nation’s first professional 3×3 league, and will test the concept next weekend, August 17 to 19 at SIMON®’s Great Mall located in Milpitas, California (Silicon Valley).
In addition to some of the world class teams from places like Serbia and China, the top American team, two time national champ All America, led by two former Princeton University standouts, guard Dan Mavraides and big man, Kareem Maddox will be in the field. Then add in other former Ivy standouts like Columbia’s Grant Mullins, and 2017 Ivy League Player of the Year Princeton’s Spencer Weisz as well as several others, and you have an interesting narrative tied from local hoops to the Olympics.
Now what is this game exactly?
It’s a very fast paced event made for millennials, that revolves really around cutting and shooting like fans would know from the legendary Princeton offense. Games are very fast and easy for casual fans to understand. The game of 3 x 3 has grown dramatically in other countries, and now with the Olympics, has a real shot to take off here in the U.S. with sanctioning from FIBA.
For this event, in addition to $50,000 in prize money, the tournament’s two finalists will both automatically qualify for a FIBA 3×3 Challenger event in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada). The top-finishing American team will earn automatic qualifications for the 2018 Sina Sports 3×3 Elite League in Beijing, China and the 2019 USA Basketball 3×3 National Championships at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. There are also ranking points for the global competition, making the venture, which is can fit easily into the footprint of high trafficked areas like malls, easy to execute. The event next weekend already has a millennial type media partner in Twitch as well, along with regional NBC Sports Networks.
It is thought to be the deepest U.S. field for the sport, much led by the Ivy elite players.
“We are elated to have such a strong international field in our first event, with some of the most exciting and talented 3×3 players on the planet coming to the Bay Area,” said 3BALL USA founder and CEO Michael Wranovics in a statement. “Many of the players we’ll see in this tournament are likely to be on the world stage when 3×3 makes its Olympic debut in 2020, and having them together to compete on the same court is a strong testament to what we’re creating with 3BALL.”
The 3-day live event will feature 18 games, a high-flying slam dunk contest, a one-on-one challenge featuring streetball icon The Professor, interactive selfie walls, music, food trucks, a beer garden, and stunt dog shows. Pool play begins on Friday at 7:00pm PDT and on Saturday at 6:00pm PDT, and the Playoffs begin on Sunday at 5:00pm PDT. Attendance is expected to be around 2,000 per day.
“For the last few years, FIBA has been pushing for the professionalization of 3×3 with more events and more prize money for players at the FIBA 3×3 World Tour and on the professional circuit in general,” added Alex Sanchez, Managing Director, FIBA 3×3. “The creation of an ambitious professional 3×3 league in the U.S. meets our ambition to have talented professional 3×3 players at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. As was the case in Australia, India, Japan, and Puerto Rico, we wish 3BALL USA to be another successful 3×3 professional league.”
A path to glory for some local stars from the college hardwood with their sights on the future. Sounds like 3 x 3 could be moving from the playground around here pretty quickly.