Just as the sun has settled on a scorching Australia Day weekend at the Australian Beach Games in Frankston where CLB3X3 basketball was again on show, the competition is set to heat up even further on and off the court courtesy of the NBL and Basketball Australia joining forces to 'Hustle' in on the action.
The NBL and Basketball Australia launched '3x3 Hustle', which according to the official release, will have a number of entry levels from street level to the professional level.
Their 'Pro Hustle' is set to consist of 16 men’s and women’s teams that is planned to commence in April 2018, made up of 8 professional teams and 8 teams from the 'Big Hustle', a state-based series of 3x3 events that enables qualification. In addition, they plan to offer 'Street Hustle' comprising of suburban teams, and 'Urban Hustle' made up of regional teams.
Sound familiar? It should. The team from Champions League Basketball (CLB) have been running almost the same format for the past 2 years. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.
The team behind CLB3X3 have been the Australian pioneers of organised 3X3 basketball across the country. Thanks to their efforts, not only has Australia seen countless events being held across all of Australia, but also an Australian team playing in a FIBA 3X3 Challenger event in Mongolia and the launch of two professional teams (Townsville and Hobart) with more to come. Coupled with Basketball Australia's inability to invest any resources into the shorter form of the game, Australia's rise up the world rankings from 62 to 48 over the past 8 months is largely due to the hard work and experience of the team from Champions League Basketball.
The NBL's decision to get involved in 3X3 basketball is an intriguing one. While the NBL continues to make great progress in re-establishing it's national relevance on the sporting landscape, there is a risk it loses focus as it broadens its scope in looking beyond the traditional 5-on-5 game. However, should they invest the time, money and resources into developing athlete pathways and giving it the specialist attention it warrants, then it is a great addition to the 3X3 landscape in Australia, but it is nothing new and not the first to do so.
3X3 basketball is not the same as the longer version of the game. It is short, sharp and a game is over before you blink. You can't just have a marquee match up between two teams as the event, as the event is the attraction. In addition, depending on the number of teams, an event can span the course of anywhere between 5 hours and up to 3 days.
CLB3x3 know this and have focused on building the sport from the ground up, establishing a strong and vibrant community that continues to grow. Any form of investment in the sport is great for the game, however the team at Champions League Basketball with their experience and expertise would have been the obvious partner of choice, especially given their passion and commitment to 3X3 as the original pioneers.
Yet with the Australian men now ranked 51 in the world, and the women moving into 36, Australia still trails Oceania rivals New Zealand, whose men are ranked 22 (and some 4.5m ranking points ahead) and the women at 32 (just 70k ranking points ahead of Australia and well within reach). Australia has failed to qualify any teams for the 2018 FIBA 3X3 World Cup being held in the Philippines in June this year. Without any men's or women's representation, coupled with our federation's lowly ranking, there is a huge amount of work required in order to be anywhere near in contention to field teams at Tokyo in 2020.
It really could be a case of together everyone achieves more.
CLB3x3 have a massive schedule of events coming up across the country that includes major cities and regional areas. Their partnership with the Australian Beach Games allows for a carnival-like atmosphere as was evidenced in Frankston this past weekend. The event was won 15-13 by iAthletic 3ballin over iAthletic Trilogy, with both sides boasting current SEABL stars. Former NBL player Tommy Greer suited up alongside SEABL stars Lucas Barker and Andrew Steel and Johnathan Cooke for the winning side, while more Nunawading SEABL stars in Simon Conn, Costa Hrnopoulos and Tom Wright came runners up. Barker (4th) and Steel (3rd) are both ranked inside the Top 5 Australian FIBA 3X3 players.
CLB3X3's previous event in Port Adelaide was a massive success, and shows that with the right planning, resources and attention, the game is set to take off around the country.
Both CLB3x3 and 3x3 Hustle are FIBA endorsed, and both will offer the chance to earn world ranking points for players of all level of age and ability. If both organisations can find a way to work together harmoniously, then 3X3 could be set to step up to the new level and the goal to send Aussie teams to Tokyo 2020 could yet become a reality.
3X3 Hustle is yet to release a complete schedule of events and thus entry is not currently available via FIBA 3X3 Planet. According to the 3X3 Hustle website, the planned schedule (without locations) includes:
Pro Hustle: April 21/22, May 5/6 and May 12/13 (16 men’s and 12 women’s teams)
Big Hustle: February until April
Urban Hustle: mid-2018 and January 2019
Street Hustle: April/May