U.S. to use WNBA players in 3-on-3 Olympic qualifier

NEW YORK — USA Basketball will have a team of WNBA players available to qualify for 3-on-3 at the Olympics.

Kelsey Plum, Allisha Gray, Katie Lou Samuelson and Stefanie Dolson headline the 11 players invited to a training camp this week in Chicago. From the pool, the selection committee will choose four women to represent the U.S. at the qualifying tournament in India from March 18-22.

“I’m very excited to have the opportunity,” said Plum, who helped the Americans win gold in the 5-on-5 World Championship in 2018. “Anytime you put on a USA jersey it’s a great thing.”

The U.S. spent the last few months getting the professional players into tournaments to move them up in the FIBA 3-on-3 rankings. While the players have a lot of experience playing 5-on-5, they are still relatively new to 3-on-3.

“It’s definitely a quicker and more fast-paced game,” Samuelson said. “You need to quickly transition from offense to defense.”

The 3-on-3 rules are made for up-tempo competition. There’s one 10-minute period, making 3-on-3 a lot quicker than its 5-on-5 counterpart. A game can end even sooner if a team scores 21 points in less than 10 minutes. If the game is tied after 10 minutes, it goes into overtime, where the first team scoring two points wins. There’s also a 12-second shot clock.

Plum and Samuelson, who just finished a stint with the 5-on-5 U.S. national team, weren’t worried about the lack of 3-on-3 experience.

“We have time to play together and grow,” said Samuelson, who won a gold medal for the U.S. at the Under-18 World Cup in 2013.

Two of the four members of the qualifying team must be in America’s top 10 for total points. Plum is currently second followed by Gray, Samuelson, Kelly Faris and Layshia Clarendon. Dolson is 10th on the list.

The selection committee can choose anyone else from the pool for the other two spots on the qualifying team. Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu is No. 1 on the points list for the U.S., but she won’t be available as her college team will be in the middle of the NCAA Tournament.

The top three teams from the qualifying tournament in each gender will advance to the Tokyo Games. If the Americans qualify, their rosters could be a little different for the Olympics. As of now, two players must be a country’s top 10 as of May 22. The other two players on the team must have a minimum of 3,600 points. FIBA has changed who is eligible a few times over the past year.

The American women have dominated 5-on-5 at the Olympics, winning six consecutive gold medals. They’ve struggled lately in 3-on-3. They finished fifth in 2018 after not qualifying in 2017. They didn’t qualify for last year’s World Cup, either.

While the women’s qualifying team will be made up of pros, the men’s team will have seasoned 3-on-3 players in the mix. Robbie Hummel, Kareem Maddox and Damon Huffman lead the way. That trio helped the U.S. men win their first 3-on-3 world title last year as the Americans finished 7-0 in the tournament.

“This is an extremely exciting time for USA Basketball as we prepare for the first-ever 3×3 Olympic Qualification Tournament. This training camp is the next step towards earning a berth into the Olympic Games, so it is incredibly important,” said USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley. “Many of our country’s top available 3×3 players will be participating, and USA Basketball will be looking to select the best USA 3×3 teams possible for the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments.”

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