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Duck Women Dominate 3×3 Basketball

May 10th, 2019 by dk

When you get really good at something, you want to do it as often as you can. How else can you explain how Ruthy Hebard, Sabrina Ionescu, Oti Gildon, and Lydia Giomi spent last weekend in Las Vegas? The Oregon women won the USA Basketball 3×3 National gold medal for the second year in a row.

Last year, four Oregon Ducks proved that team chemistry matters more than individual skill by defeating all comers to represent the United States in the World 3×3 Championship. This year’s team had three of the same players, with Giomi replacing Erin Boley as the fourth.

It’s quite possible that you’ve never heard of 3×3 basketball, but the sport won’t go unnoticed much longer. Its Olympic debut in 2020, for both men and women, will introduce the sport to millions. The simplest way to describe 3×3 is street ball, minus the asphalt.

In almost every other way, the half-court game looks like the pick-up games that happened in your neighborhood and mine, wherever a basketball hoop was installed in a driveway. No coaches, no foul limits, first team to 21 wins. Each team has four players — three on the court and a sub.

The clock stops only for free throws, but the clock hardly matters at all. Both teams race to the magic number of 21 as fast as they can. Shots from behind the traditional 3-point arc are worth two points. All other shots and free throws are worth one point.

High score after 10 minutes wins, if neither side has reached 21 — because Mrs. Delaney won’t invite the neighborhood kids over for ice cream cones if her son Mark doesn’t make it home in time for dinner. (I made up that last part. It could have been added as a rule, except Mrs. Delaney died a couple decades ago.)

The sport is beginning to catch on. Some retired NBA players see it as a way to keep showing off their skills when their knees can no longer endure a traditional basketball game. Hip hop musician Ice Cube and others formed a professional league in 2017, initially limiting it to players 30 years old or older.

Here’s what I love about the game. There’s nothing to watch except the score. No coach planning match-ups or resting players. Players can’t foul out. The clock doesn’t matter, unless the game approaches the 10-minute mark.

Every fan gets a great view, because it’s played on a half court. There’s no break in the action until the game is done. It requires less endurance than a regular basketball game, so it’s a distillation of a team’s collective skill and love for the game. It’s a highlight reel, presented live.

Nobody should have been surprised that the Ruthy and Sabrina Show found another venue where their skill and love would beat all comers. Naturally, Ionescu was chosen the Most Valuable Player for the series for the second year in a row.

Coach Kelly Graves would probably invite Sabrina and her teammates over for ice cream cones, if he thought they needed any extra inspiration.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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