November 2, 2022 

What to watch at this weekend’s 3X3 AmeriCup

Hull, Burton, Smith and Zimmerman to play in Miami

Team USA is searching to defend its gold medal in the 3X3 AmeriCup, which tips off on Friday and concludes on Sunday in Miami.

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NaLyssa Smith, Lexie Hull, Veronica Burton and Camille Zimmerman will compose the U.S. team that opens in pool play with Guyana and Colombia.

Burton and Hull are coming off a silver medal-winning performance at the FIBA 3X3 Under-23 World Cup in Romania. The Dallas Wings and Indiana Fever rookies fell just short of the gold, 21-18 to France, playing with Emily Engstler and N’dea Jones.

“Lexie and Veronica are two of the toughest young players in the WNBA,” U.S. adviser Jennifer Rizzotti said. “They are very cerebral, and I am impressed.”

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Smith is making her 3X3 debut. The former Baylor player who just completed her rookie season with the Indiana Fever won the gold medal at the Under-18 Women’s Americas Championship in 2018. She nearly cracked the roster for the senior World Cup team that won the gold medal last month in Sydney, as well. But how will all of her 5X5 success transfer to the 3X3 format?

“NaLyssa has been a great addition, and she is really soaking things up,” Rizzotti said. “She can be dominant. I think she’ll really be someone who learns to play [3X3]. She’s adjusting habits like spacing the floor and trying to get out of the way. From the first day, there is such a big difference. She understands timing when she is on the perimeter and who to switch. She protects the paint and is learning the keys to the game. Not everybody adapts. We are encouraging younger players with the 3X3.”

Zimmerman brings her experience from the 3X3 Women’s Series, where she played for the Japanese-based EXEWing this summer. A member of the U.S.-based Force 10 3X3 team, the 26-year-old Columbia University graduate also plays 5X5 basketball professionally in Switzerland.

“When many players play at a high level, they go too fast,” Rizzotti added about those transitioning to 3X3. “You can play fast and with strategy and make the right pass. Camille has a great presence; she’s like a coach on the floor.”

Guyana is a nation with an area and population comparable to North Dakota. In a twist, it is actually ranked higher in the AmeriCup than pool-mate Colombia (population 52 million). Rizzotti added that 3X3 is special since it gives smaller countries that might not be able to field competitive 5X5 rosters a chance to compete.

“We want to grow the [3X3] game and basketball,” Rizzotti said. “It’s fun to watch how far we have come. It’s an opportunity to compete against the best in the world and in our zone.”

3X3 is catching on across the world. The U.S. beat China in the semifinals of October’s FIBA 3X3 Under-23 World Cup. Photo courtesy of FIBA.

Defending bronze medalist Canada anchors Pool B and matches up with Guatemala. The Plouffe sisters, Michelle and Katherine, lead Canada with Kacie Bosch and Paige Crozon. Pool C consists of Chile, Argentina and Jamaica. Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic are in Pool D. Last year, the fourth-place Puerto Ricans were the only team to come within 10 points of the U.S. Reigning silver medalist Brazil is in a qualifying group with Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago. And two of those teams will join Pool B and Pool D.

The U.S. men’s team is also the defending champion in the event and plays on the same days and court. Former BYU star Jimmer Fredette will play alongside Canyon Barry, Kareem Maddox and Dylan Thomas. Fran Fraschilla is the advisor.

Last year’s U.S. women’s team went 5-0 in the inaugural AmeriCup and Brionna Jones led the event in scoring. Cierra Burdick, Blake Dietrick and Haley Gorecki joined the recent 5X5 world champion Jones on top of the podium.

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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