LAS VEGAS (AP) — Before 3-on-3 basketball debuts in the Olympics, USA Basketball took it to Las Vegas.
The men’s and women’s national championships went full-blown show time in looking for the four best athletes who hope to represent the U.S. in the 2020 Olympics.
More than 130 men’s and women’s players held court at Las Vegas’ outdoor Downtown Events Center, with a live DJ blaring hip hop and the glow from the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino shining down from high above.
Ariel Slow & Steady defeated Ariel NYAC 21-12 to win the men’s title, while All-American Sabrina Ionescu led Oregon past Drive, 21-20 to win the women’s title Saturday night.
The event, formerly held in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was the first step toward qualifying and selecting a team for Tokyo, where the newest basketball discipline will debut.
“There’s a lot of unknowns because this is the first year it’s ever going to be an Olympic sport,” said former NBA player Robbie Hummel, who won the MVP award after scoring 16 points for Slow & Steady in the championship game. “We’re kind of going through a period where we’re feeling some things out. It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of miles flown in some airplanes to some places you never thought you’d visit. But it’s a way to still play basketball, it’s a way to travel, it’s a pretty cool experience.”
Joining Hummel were Damon Huffman (Brown), Kareem Maddox (Princeton) and Daniel Mavraides (Princeton).
USA Basketball and Red Bull have scheduled more than 20 tournaments this summer to help the Americans qualify, beginning in Detroit on June 22.
Qualifying as a country is based on a point system, which can be earned by playing in FIBA-sanctioned tournaments around the world. The top three point-earning countries by Nov. 1 will automatically qualify for Tokyo. The U.S. men are currently ranked eighth and the American women are 33rd. If the Americans aren’t in the top three by that date, there will be a last-chance tournament held next spring for the final few spots.
Only seven teams per gender will join Japan in the Olympics.
With the win, Slow & Steady qualified for a berth in the 2019 FIBA 3×3 World Tour Masters stop held July 20-21 in Saskatoon, Canada.
Other eligible athletes remain in consideration the 2019 USA Men’s 3×3 World Cup and 2019 USA Men’s 2019 U.S. Pan American Games 3×3 Basketball teams.
The 2019 FIBA 3×3 World Cup for Men will feature 20 men’s teams and will take place June 18-23 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Ionescu scored 17 points to lead Oregon to its second straight 3×3 national championship. The win helped Ionescu, Lydia Giomi, Ruthy Hebard and Otiona Goldon take the sting out of losing to eventual national champion Baylor in the Final Four.
“We got this far, we wanted to get that win,” said Ionescu, who was named MVP of the event for the second consecutive year. “We were a little bit down in that last game, but we battled and I’m super proud of us. Lydia’s first time doing this, so I’m just really happy.”
On the women’s side, all eligible athletes are in consideration for the U.S. team that will play in the Pan American Games, which will be chosen by a selection committee and will be announced following the May 16-20 trials for the women’s 5-on-5 Pan Am Games squad. The Pan American Games 3×3 competition is being held July 27-29 in Lima, Peru.
FIBA also anticipates launching a FIBA 3×3 world tour for women this year, and should that happen, athletes would also be in consideration for a berth into the women’s world tour.
If the U.S. teams qualify, a selection committee will determine which four players will represent the team at the Olympics, based on national rankings. Two of the players on the team must be ranked in the top 10 in the country in points earned, with the other two ranked in the top 50 overall.
The U.S. women currently have no one ranked in the top 250 overall.