Why you can't miss Olympic women's 3x3 basketball at Tokyo 2020

From the streets to the Olympics - Basketball is being taken to a whole new level with 3x3 in Tokyo 

By Ashlee Tulloch

Hoops fans rejoice, because Tokyo 2020 is going to be everything you could ever imagine and more.

3x3 basketball will change the Olympic basketball scene for the better, and the women’s game is going to lead the way when the sport makes its Olympic debut in July.

Lights, music, eight teams, and a historic gold medal to be won.

This is basketball like you’ve never seen it before.

Here’s what the hype is all about and an introduction to the women you need to be following.

Olympic women's 3x3 - Physical, frenetic, high-paced

If it’s fast, dynamic action you’re after, then this is the sport for you.

Played on a half court with a 12-second shot clock, 3X3 is physical and frenetic.

Teams have four players. Three on court and a substitute, so there’s little time to rest and athlete fitness is crucial.

"In 3x3 you have to switch so fast. You have to play the right way. You need to find the right balance," German star Satou Sabally told FIBA.

It’s quicker than the traditional five-a-side game because the team who reaches 21 points first wins.

If the game is tied after 10 minutes, it goes to overtime and the first team to score two points claims victory.

An aggressive scoring mentality is needed and that's what you'll see when 3X3 comes to life in the urban sports cluster in Tokyo on July 24.

Since being showcased at the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore, the up-tempo sport has been contested at two more Youth Olympic Games and gradually built a cult following.

It’s fair to say players like Sabally are excited about what the women’s game has to offer.

“It’s an attractive game. It brings us closer to the people. We have so many dope women, playing with swag. That’s what I like about it." - Satou Sabally

Olympic women's 3x3 - Ones to watch: Guapo, Toure, Filip

So far in the women’s competition only Russia, China, Mongolia and Romania have qualified for Tokyo 2020 due to their world ranking.

Three more tickets are up for grab in Graz, Austria from May 26-30 at the FIBA 3X3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

Then in June Debrecen, Hungary will host the Universality Olympic Qualifying Tournament: the event will offer one last spot for a team who has not qualified for the Games and hasn’t been represented in Basketball at London 2012 or Rio 2016.

This is part of FIBA’s 3x3 objective to take basketball to countries that traditionally have not been powerhouses in the sport.

So, who are the teams to look out for?

France cannot be overlooked as one of the favourites.

Not only are they the 3X3 2019 European Champions, but they are also stacked with talent.

Laetitia Guapo, Migna Touré, and Ana Maria Filip are currently ranked as the top three players in the world.

“When there is a tight game, I know I can put the next gear in the last three minutes, when the opponents are unable anymore. That’s often when we make the difference," - says Guapo in Olympic Channel original series - Anatomy Of…

Team USA are always in the mix of any basketball conversation, and 3X3 is no different.

Like France they still need to qualify and have already named their side to compete for an Olympic berth which includes, Katie Lou Samuelson, Stefanie Dolson, Allisha Gray and Kelsey Plum.

But questions still remain around other USA stars, like 23-year-old Sabrina Ionescu who was the number one pick in last seasons WNBA draft. The New York Liberty star has built a strong 5-a-side reputation thanks to a stellar college career with the University of Oregon Ducks.

Ionescu is the first collegiate player to score 2,000 career points, 1,000 assists, and 1,000 rebounds and is the all-time NCAA leader in triple-doubles with 26.

She has experience in both the full court and 3X3 and in 2019 she told Olympic Channel she preferred 3x3 if she had to choose.

Another star in both versions of the game is UConn Huskies freshman Paige Bueckers.

In her short college career, which only began in November, she has led her side to a 24–1 record and the number one ranking as of writing.

The 19-year-old is earning high praise from four-time Olympic gold medallist Sue Bird and two-time WNBA finals MVP Breanna Stewart.

"What she's done this year, in such a year of unknown, is actually ridiculous. She doesn't look like a freshman, that's for sure. "Breanna Stewart told ESPN

Olympic women's 3x3 - Global growth

While the five-a-side game has a long sporting history, 3X3 is still making its mark, but it's come a long way quickly.

As recognised in an IOC-commissioned study, 3x3 basketball is today the number one urban team sport in the world.

Speaking to ESPN, Force 10 Sports Management and Seattle Storm CEO and general manager Alisha Valavanis said, "The global growth of 3x3 has been extraordinary, and it's another space for women to play."

FIBA has also outlined that one of their missions is to spread the sport globally to countries that previously haven't been dominant in 3X3.