Head coach Kara Lawson and her 3×3 team clinched a historic Olympic berth over the weekend.
By Alex Holmes
The United States will have a team competing for the first-ever gold medal in the new 3×3 Olympic Basketball Tournament this summer. The quartet of Allisha Gray, Stefanie Dolson, Kelsey Plum, and Katie Lou Samuelson booked Team USA’s ticket to the inaugural event after going undefeated in the FIBA 3×3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Austria this weekend.
The Americans finished 4–0 in pool play, cruising past Indonesia, Uruguay, and Germany, and took down former 3×3 FIBA No. 1 France in the opening round. The knockout phase began and ended on Sunday, with Team USA defeating Belarus 21–10 in the quarterfinals to set up a semifinal date with Spain three hours later.
Team USA made sure there was little drama in a game that decided who would clinch one of the three bids to the Olympic Games. Dolson’s game-winning layup off a pick-and-roll with Plum capped off the victory and Team USA’s first berth to the 3×3 Olympic event. Gray and Dolson led the squad with 7 points each, followed by Plum’s 4 points and Samuelson’s 3 points.
Allisha Gray, a former NCAA champion at South Carolina and current star on the Dallas Wings, led the U.S. with 6.5 points per game during the tournament. Dolson and Plum contributed 5.7 and 5.3 points per game, while Samuelson added 3.7 points per contest. The team is coached by Kara Lawson, who began serving as the head coach and advisor in 2017.
Lawson, who is now the head coach at Duke, summed up how impressive this feat was for the Red, White, and Blue, noting that her squad went up against teams that have played 3×3 together for years.
“For them to gel together this quickly and secure a bid to Tokyo is pretty remarkable. And then, on top of that, being a part of the historic first competition – I think that’s pretty cool,” Lawson said to USA Basketball following the game.
The 3×3 game is much different from the traditional 5×5 setting. Aside from a faster pace and increased physicality, 3×3 differs in several other ways. The games are played on a half-court, use 12-second shot clocks, and last only 10 minutes. Field goals inside the arc and free throws are worth one point, while field goals outside the arc are worth two points. The first team to 21 points, or the team with the most points at the end of the 10 minutes, wins the game.
Eight men’s and women’s teams will play in the 3×3 Olympic Basketball Tournament in Tokyo from July 24–28. Fellow semifinal winner France and third-place winner Japan earned the other two bids from the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. The U.S., France, and Japan join China, Mongolia, Romania, and Russia on the list of teams who have qualified for the Olympics so far. The final Olympic berth will be awarded at another Olympic qualifying tournament next week in Hungary.
On the men’s side, Poland, the Netherlands, and Latvia punched their tickets to Tokyo. The USA men’s 3×3 team did not qualify, losing to the Dutch in the quarterfinals.
The USA women made history in dominating fashion by qualifying for the new Olympic event. Leading scorer Allisha Gray captured the Team USA mentality in a press release following the team’s triumph:
“All the training, all the effort by all the coaches, all the quarantine, it paid off. We didn’t come all the way out here not to win and be able to qualify for the Olympics. We came out here and achieved what we had to do.”