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A firsthand look at 3X basketball, the new Olympic sport, in Brooklyn

Before I had my first experience with 3X basketball Thursday at a Red Bull-sponsored media game, I explained to a friend how it’s going to be a big thing in the Olympics next year. “It’s a 3-on-3 tournament in the half court,” I said.

The response: “Isn’t that like the Big 3?”

I didn’t have a good answer until I actually played in the media game which took place on the Nets practice court at Barclays Center (with super trainer Chris Brickley on hand). It was part of a weekend Olympic qualifying tournament being held in Brooklyn at both Barclays and the HSS Training Center.

The game is rather unorthodox with it’s fast-paced style due to a 12-second shot clock. After a made bucket, the opposing team takes the ball out under the hoop and has to get to the three-point line in order for the play to count.

Keep in mind: The 12-second shot clock begins as soon as you grab the ball.

In essence, the game is good, old-fashioned pick-up ball, with rules. The game is 10 minutes long, unless one team scores 21 points.

And like pick-up games, the rules prevent you from getting into any sort of any offensive set. It’s more about instinct and ability to create off isolation. Oh yeah, stamina is extremely important too. Defenses are forced into mismatches because of the fast pace and constant movement. The ball is WNBA size and the weight of an NBA ball.

It may sound crazy. But it’s crazy enough to work.

The FIBA mens’ basketball program, the 5-on-5 variety, has grown over the years but there hasn’t been much parity in the Olympics with Team USA winning the last three gold medals — and six of the last seven. Basketball IS America’s sport and the NBA contains the best of the best from all around the world.

But in 3X, there should be more parity. According to FIBA, U.S. men are ranked eighth and the U.S. women are ranked 33rd. Most of those teams above the U.S. aren’t necessarily known as basketball powerhouses. Japan is No. 5, Mongolia No. 7, Netherlands No. 9 and Qatar No. 10 in the men’s rankings.

The US 3X challenge won’t be filled by NBA players – It’s a more open competition than that. More basketball with an even playing field? Count me in. Furthermore, it shows the evolution of basketball and how the game is branching off from your typical 5-on-5 full court game.

The Big 3 tournament run by Ice Cube is somewhat similar, but it features former NBA players who compete in a weekend tournament every Sunday during the summer. It’s sort of an old man’s game, 30-somethings staying in shape. The shot clock in the Big 3 is set at 14 and players have the ability to score four points on a 30-foot shot.

The Olympic 3X is more pure, less of an exhibition.

Niki Avery is a women’s professional basketball player for Keravnos in Cyprus, having won two MVP’s in the two years she’s played there. The East Harlem native explained her basketball background, from playing at Rucker Park to training with some of the best basketball players in the metropolitan area at the Jerry Powell physical fitness program on Long Island. She played Division 1 ball at Eastern Kentucky and immediately hopped on the opportunity to potentially try for a bid at the USA 3X national team next summer.

“The style of play is much more team-oriented,” Avery told me at the Red Bull 3-on-3 Media run at Barclays Center Thursday. “We scout and prepare for the other teams defensively and offensively. This [3-on-3] game is fast - run and gun- but also structured and played within a game plan.”

So working with USA Basketball, Red Bull is sponsoring 20 qualifiers around the country to identify elite men’s and women’s players who could potentially represent the USA in 2020.

Which brings us to this weekend.

One of those qualifiers for both men and women takes place Saturday on the Brooklyn Nets practice courts at HSS Training Center in Sunset Park. Players and teams will have a chance to compete for the main prize: representing the USA in the Olympics next year. Avery will be one of many looking to win that prize and continue her quest to wear the red, white and blue in Tokyo.

One well-known Brooklyn street baller turned pro is already on board with the concept.

“With 3X coming to the Olympics, I want to help grow the sport,” Former Olympic gold-medalist and NBA Hall of Famer, Chris Mullin, has said. “I grew up playing 3-on-3, which is uniquely different than five-on-five. It really appeals to what I love about basketball – fast play, high energy, ball movement and teamwork. This gives so many players a way to keep playing ball and to potentially represent their country.”

Qualifiers will be run in different cities and states all throughout summer and even in the Fall. To learn more, visit this link:

So how’d I do? It’s like riding a bike.