by Dan Kinvig
Most sports fans know basketball as a five-on-five game, but there’s something special happening in the Abbotsford Middle School gymnasium this weekend that will make you fall in love with the sport all over again.
The school’s gymnasium is the host site for three-on-three basketball at the BC Summer Games, and this unique version of the sport is proving to be extremely popular with players and fans alike.
In contrast to traditional five-on-five basketball, three-on-three is contested in the halfcourt, which allows the BC Games to stage the boys tournament at one basket with the girls event running at the other end.
Games are short (two six-minute halves) and fast-paced, and other key rules tweaks include scoring (three-pointers count for two points, everything inside the arc worth one) and shot clock (15 seconds instead of 24 or 30).
Bradley Martin, a Salmon Arm product playing for the Thompson-Okanagan boys team, said three-on-three is his favourite version of the game.
“It’s more fun,” he asserted with a smile. “You’ve got to score a lot quicker, and you get the ball more because there’s only three players. In the halfcourt, you don’t have to inbound the ball, so it’s a lot more hustle.”
Three-on-three is a staple of informal pickup basketball, but only in recent years has it come into vogue as an organized sport.
FIBA, the international governing body for basketball, is heavily promoting three-on-three as a developmental tool and as an effort to grow the game as a whole. FIBA hosts a three-on-three World Championship, and eventually hopes to have it included in the Summer Olympics.
Connor Ranspot of Basketball BC, provincial advisor for the BC Games three-on-three tournament, noted that this event is for under-13 athletes, whereas the five-on-five tourney is a U14 event. That allows Basketball BC to involve another age group and thus expand their developmental efforts.
“FIBA’s really pushing three-on-three, and it’s becoming really big,” Ranspot noted. “FIBA, Basketball BC, Basketball Canada – we’re all really big on it because, especially at the younger age levels, you just get so many touches on the ball and there’s so much space out there. The games are short, but compared to five-on-five, these kids are playing so many more games in a day.
“It’s also super quick-paced, and it’s a situation where anything can happen. Anybody can beat anybody when you hit a couple threes or get hot in a game.”
Elise Lim, a member of the Fraser River girls squad, said she still prefers five-on-five hoops because it’s the “normal” version of the game. The biggest difference between the two strains of the sport, she said, is the speed.
“Three-on-three, you don’t transition to the other side of the court, so it’s faster,” she said.
Several zones had multiple teams entered in the BC Games tournament, and in early pool-play action on Friday, the Vancouver-Coastal boys and Fraser Valley girls teams were dominant. Vancouver-Coastal and Vancouver-Coastal A both posted perfect 3-0 records to win the Red and Blue boys pools, respectively. Likewise, the Fraser Valley and Fraser Valley A girls squads both went 3-0 to sweep the Red and Blue pools.
Pool play continues Friday afternoon and into the early evening, with the playoffs set to tip off at 8:30 a.m. at Abbotsford Middle School on Saturday.