May 29, 2023
What to watch for with Team USA, others at the FIBA 3×3 World Cup
Two college stars, two 3x3 vets vie for gold for USA
Vienna, Austria, is famous for many cultural aspects. This week it is the capital of the 3×3 basketball landscape, as the FIBA 3×3 World Cup tips off on May 30. A champion will be crowned on June 4.
Team USA, which is ranked third, blends the experience of Cierra Burdick and Linnae Harper with youthful Hailey Van Lith and Cameron Brink, as it searches for its first 3×3 World Cup gold medal since 2014. Burdick and Van Lith were on last year’s team, with Lauren Cox and Ashley Joens, finishing seventh.
“I am excited to get going,” said Team USA coach Jen Rizzotti. “We have a good mix of youth and experience, and I am excited to see how we stack up against some of the best players in the world in 3×3. On the court and off the court, they have been spending a lot of time together. They have been very engaged, making sure that they are learning each other well and utilizing their strengths.”
At 29, Burdick was a member of the USA’s most-recent 3×3 World Cup gold medal team, with Jewell Loyd, Tiffany Mitchell and Sara Hammond.
“I am super excited to be here,” Burdick said. “Any time you get to put USA across your chest and play for your country on the world stage, it’s an unbelievable blessing. I never take it for granted or take it lightly. I think we’ve been putting in good work. We’ve been together for almost two weeks now, with training camp in Colorado Springs, then coming to Austria for another one on European territory. We are making good strides and progress. With 3×3, chemistry is so huge, the more reps and the more
time we get together, the better.”
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The 6’2 Burdick, who played at Tennessee from 2011-2015, has journeyed through various pro teams. This past winter, she won the Spanish league championship with Valencia, but she said she is unsure if she will return next season.
“I am definitely the veteran leader of the group,” Burdick said. “We have a good balance between Linnae and I being the older players, and Hailey and Cameron being the younger players. But with this being my third World Cup and having the most experience on the 3×3 circuit, I think my veteran voice and leadership is definitely what they need out of me. Definitely being a calm and collective presence for this team, I am doing my best to lead and set an example. I just want to get better every game. It’s fun to go up against other countries, and group play is a great opportunity to see where we are and how we can improve.”
Rizzotti also mentioned that Burdick showed signs of leadership the first time she coached her when Burdick was just 17. This includes off court tangibles, such as diet and stretching.
Burdick became acquainted with Van Lith at last year’s 3×3 World Cup and notices some growth from her. The point guard was the MVP of the 3×3 Under-18 World Cup in 2019 and recently transferred from Louisville to defending champion LSU.
“I think (there is) another year of maturity,” Burdick said of the 21-year-old Van Lith. “Any time you get more experience under your belt, more reps, more competition, the goal is to keep growing and moving forward. I think she has done a better job of managing pace and figuring out when to be aggressive offensively and when to pass to the ball more. That will help here huge in this upcoming 3×3 World Cup. She is a great player, we all know she can score, just getting into her rhythm and pace is going to be crucial.”
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Brink, who will be a 6’4 senior center at Stanford this fall, is debuting in the 3×3 format. She does own gold medals from the Under-17 and Under-19 5×5 World Cups.
“They are obviously two of the best college players in the country,” Rizzotti added about Van Lith and Brink. “I think that in Hailey’s case, she has a lot of 3×3 experience, and that is what I noticed the most, how much better she is than last year. It’s really paying off that she is coming here with a World Cup
under her belt. For Cameron, it’s a whole new game for her. I am getting to see a side of her that in 5X5 it is hard to see.
“She is being asked to do a little bit more, and she is being asked to do it at a quicker pace, both mentally and physically, so it’s been fun to watch her develop. In college, her role is more limited than what we are asking her to do here. When she started, she was comfortable posting up on the block because that is what she does in college, and 3×3 is really physical.”
Rizzotti told Brink she needs to be quicker and more athletic and work her way down to the block. Now she is creating ball screens and creating good mismatches, shooting on the perimeter, and getting her easier looks.
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Harper, 28, played at Ohio State, and she is the winner of several international medals in both 5×5 and 3×3. Last year, she was on the FIBA 3×3 Women’s Series that Rizzotti coached.
“Linnae is just a 3×3 pro,” Rizzotti said. “She understands the game. She brings a lot of leadership for Cameron and Hailey in terms of understanding the game, and her temperament is really good. Last year, when she was on the 3×3 Series, she had the best shooting percentage of anyone in the series. She brings an outside threat.”
Another meeting with rival Canada
Last year in Antwerp, Team USA won its pool before falling to Canada, 14-10, in the quarterfinals. The Canadians serve as the Americans’ first opponent in Pool C on Tuesday, with its four-player roster intact from its silver medal in 2022. Canada, which is ranked seventh, consists of Kacie Bosch (who played at Gonzaga), Paige Crozon (formerly of the University of Utah), and the Plouffe twins — Katherine and Michelle — who played in the U.S. at Marquette and Utah in the early 2010s.
“Canada is a great team,” Burdick added. “They are one of the best teams in the world. They keep their same four, and they have had the same four for years, so their chemistry is unbelievable. They are all skilled players, they know their roles. It will be a good measuring stick to see how we are after our first game.”
After playing Canada at 1 p.m. Vienna time (7 a.m. ET) on May 30, Team USA faces Hungary at 3 p.m (9 a.m. ET). On June 30, it will meet Mongolia at 11 a.m. (5 a.m. ET) and the Czech Republic at 1:25 p.m. (7:25 a.m. ET).
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France, Germany and China highlight other pools
No. 1 seed France is the reigning champion and headlines Pool A, with the Netherlands, Spain, Austria, and Brazil. Laetitia Guapo, age 27, of France was the MVP in Antwerp last year. Marie Michelle Milapie and Marie-Eve Paget rejoin Guapo from the 2022 team, while Hortense Limouzin debuts.
Germany is the second-highest ranked team in the event and boasts Svenja Brunckhorst, Sonja Greinacher, Marie Reichert, and Luana Rodefeld. The Germans are in Pool B with Japan, Poland, Egypt, and Australia.
Defending bronze medalist and third-ranked China anchors Pool D, with Lithuania, Romania, Italy, and Israel. Wang Lili of China tied Kelsey Plum for the Tokyo Olympic lead with 55 points. Kamile Nacickaite of Lithuania led the 2022 tournament with 45 points.
The four group stage winners will advance directly to the quarterfinals. The eight teams that place second and third will play each other off in a previous round.
Written by Scott Mammoser
Scott Mammoser started out covering the Niagara University women's basketball team in 2002. He went on to cover FIBA World Cups in Turkey and Spain, Under-19 World Cups in Thailand and Spain, the Asia Cup in China, as well as major international events for World Athletics and the International Skating Union. He has been to six Olympics and traveled to more than 80 countries.