September 30, 2023 

What it was like on tour during the FIBA 3X3 Women’s Series

Team USA's Cierra Burdick was named the MVP of the Pristina and Katowice events

Mongolia’s capital city of Ulaanbaatar isn’t necessarily a popular destination for hosting international sporting events. It was there, however, that the FIBA 3X3 Women’s Series concluded on Sept. 17. The American quartet of Cierra Burdick, Blake Dietrick, Linnae Harper and Camille Zimmerman placed fourth, losing to eventual champion Canada, 21-12, in the semifinal.

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After arriving home in Charlotte, N.C., Burdick was visiting her mother in Virginia Beach when she was able to catch her breath from a whirlwind summer of 3X3 events.

“It was crazy,” Burdick told The Next. “We did nine total events, including the finals. I played in eight of the nine. I missed the first one because I had just came back from the World Cup [in Vienna, where the U.S. won the gold medal].

“It was a fun experience being able to travel the world and seeing all of these different cities and venues and continu[ing] to experience different cultures. It was really cool. I went to some places for the first time, like Pristina, Kosovo, or Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Places that never in my craziest dreams would I think I would end up there. But because of FIBA 3X3, I was able to visit some really cool places. It was an awesome and crazy summer.”

Burdick, who played for Tennessee from 2011 to 2015 and for several WNBA teams after that, was the MVP of the July event win over France in Pristina. The U.S. won its second event in Katowice, Poland, in August. Burdick earned MVP again after her team defeated Lithuania by three points in the final.

Burdick has a deep connection with Poland. She played professionally there for three years, and it meant a lot to her to win the tournament.

In total, there were 23 tour stops. The United States’ other finishes included: seventh in Poitiers, France, in June; 10th in Bordeaux, France, in July; third in Edmonton, Alberta, in July; fifth in Melilla, Spain, in August; and fourth in Montreal, Canada, the first week of September.

The final in Ulaanbaatar consisted of the top eight teams from the season series. Canada, with five wins during the tour, was the top seed. It defeated France, 16-15, for the gold medal, behind MVP Michelle Plouffe and her twin sister Katherine. It was a rematch of the 2022 final in Romania.

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Road trip stories

While 90-minute rides to practice in Mongolian traffic might seem tedious, it helped that the group got along well.

“We had a good group. We really did,” Burdick added. “It helps when it’s not an ideal travel situation. I think [on] the way to Mongolia, the way there was 26 hours and the way back 36 hours. Sometimes things get delirious and everything seems hilarious, and I think in those moments, you are creating some of your most fun memories. It’s the people you get to do it with that makes it special, and the laughs you share along the way, that’s more important than any [individual accomplishment].”

Burdick mentioned that coach Jen Rizzotti told the players she would jump in the fountain in front of their hotel in Pristina if they won that tour stop. The team completed its task, and the Connecticut Sun president rolled up her pant legs and stomped in the water.

This was the fourth season for the series, and it appears to be growing in popularity.

“We talked to the director of FIBA when we were in Mongolia,” Burdick said. “And the goal is to continue to build. We had a record amount of prize money and events this season. I think the goal is to keep growing and building the platform. It would be nice to get a couple of tournaments here in the States, and then we can get it in front of an American audience as well. Europe is ahead of the curve in terms of exposing 3X3 and getting behind it, so it we could get that kind of following in the States, it would be an awesome thing.”

Cierra Burdick is shown in a white USA No. 7 jersey with blue trim and writing.
In addition to two FIBA 3X3 World Cup titles, Cierra Burdick owns gold medals from both the Under-17 and Under-19 5X5 World Cups. (Photo credit: USA Basketball)

Next up for USA Basketball in 3X3

Next summer’s Paris Olympics will mark the second time that 3X3 is played in the Games. On Nov. 1, the top three teams in the FIBA rankings will join host France as qualifiers. The final four spots will be decided through qualifying tournaments in the upcoming months. While it’s forecast that the defending gold medalist U.S. will be one of the top-ranked teams, Burdick said she will need to try out to be one of the four players or one alternate selected.

The Pan-American Games will run from Oct. 20 through Nov. 5 in Santiago, Chile. Burdick said USA Basketball named her to the 3X3 team, and Rizzotti will be the coach. However, the other player slots are to be determined. Burdick also said that she plans to play 5X5 in Europe this winter, but she does not know where yet.

In other 3X3 competition

Also of note, the USA Under-21 team defeated China in the 3X3 Nations League Final in Ulaanbaatar on Sept. 15. Morgan Maly, who plays for Creighton, was the MVP of the tournament. Minnesota’s Mara Braun and Villanova teammates Lucy Olsen and Christina Dalce joined Maly on the team.

The FIBA 3X3 Under-23 World Cup tipped off on Wednesday in Lublin, Poland, and concludes on Sunday. The United States has a team comprised of the Los Angeles Sparks’ Zia Cooke, former Baylor player Aquira DeCosta, Syracuse’s Dyaisha Fair and Charlotte’s Dazia Lawrence. They finished pool play 2-2 with wins over Austria and Kenya, but it was not enough to see them advance to the quarterfinals.

Written by Scott Mammoser

Scott Mammoser has covered major international events for FIBA, World Athletics and the International Skating Union. He has been to six Olympics and traveled to more than 90 countries.

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