An important step towards establishing a formal national program and development pathway for 3X3 basketball in Australia takes place this week, with the first of three planned talent identification camps held at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre (MSAC) on 28 September.
With 3X3 basketball fast gaining a foothold across the country ahead of making its debut at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Basketball Australia recently announced Dave Biwer as National 3X3 Pathway Manager and inaugural Head Coach.
He will be charged with overseeing the development of a national program for the shorter form of the game. In speaking with The Pick and Roll, Biwer was excited, yet under no illusion what the challenge ahead posed, advising that the talent identification camps were the first step to introducing structure.
"We are looking to identify people who are interested in the [3X3] game, who are going to become the key players involved, and whether they are in it for the long haul," explained Biwer.
"The first camp in Melbourne is invitation only, targeting players based in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. There will be a WA camp whereby players from South Australia can also attend, and one for New South Wales, the ACT and Queensland.
"The plan is to then have a master camp, hand-picking the best players from all the first camps, to be possibly held at the AIS or at MSAC."
Biwer explained that Australia had already enjoyed some success on the world stage despite not having a coordinated approach to the sport in the past.
"We have had won gold and bronze [medals] in the [FIBA 3X3] Asia Cup, and have already made some noise."
In fact, Australia's men won a first ever gold in 2018, improving on their bronze from 2017. The women on the other hand experienced the reverse; winning bronze this year after winning gold almost 12 months earlier.
With the sport growing rapidly across the globe, Biwer highlighted the need to have top-level athletes prepared and ready to be able to mobilise quickly, as invitations to events can come at short notice, mirroring the nature of the sport; quick and spontaneous.
"There is another tournament in Japan later this year for the women," Biwer added. "It [the talent identification camps] will form part of the selection process, and will help us choose the four players to go to Japan.
"We [Australia] actually get invited to [play in] tournaments all the time. However, we're not currently equipped to respond and attend most of them right now. Often invitations come in late, usually due to teams dropping out, and we want to be able to take advantage of those opportunities in future."
With 3X3 basketball set to make its debut in Tokyo as an Olympic sport, Biwer recognised that Australia had plenty of work to do in order to have both a men's and women's team in a position to qualify. While Biwer confirmed that the 3X3 Hustle was the official Basketball Australia endorsed pathway, ultimately everyone running FIBA 3X3 tournaments, whether they be Association-based or those run by the likes of CLB3X3 or Red Bull Reign, were helping the cause through accumulating valuable FIBA 3X3 ranking points to help boost Australia's position in the world standings.
"I think we can fit together," outlined Biwer. "It really doesn't have to be one or the other."
He would go on to outline his vision of a national 3X3 pathway, something that he did not necessarily think would be much different to that for which already exists for the traditional form of the game.
"I kind of view the 3X3 and the structure going forward [in Australia] as being very similar to what we currently have in place. You know, an NBL-type league, a SEABL or similar league, state leagues like the QBL, and various other leagues.
"The biggest challenge we have right now however, is that we have to identify who wants to play. If you look at the pyramid of 5-on-5, the amount of players and opportunities becomes smaller as you near the top. Given the talent going around toward the top of the pyramid [in Australia], then the talent playing 3X3 is going to be pretty darn good."
Representing your country is one of the highest honours that can be bestowed on anyone, and Biwer was treating the process with the utmost respect it deserves.
"We have four coaches who will form the selection panel for the [talent identification] camps, and who will select national teams. In the past it was a panel of coaches who selected players who may be suited to the game. I want to get rid of the word 'maybe'."
He further went on to explain that FIBA 3X3 has some specific requirements when it came to national team selection.
"The Australian team must have two of the four players [in the team] ranked in the country's top 10 players. In the past, FIBA gave some leniency to Australia given we were just starting out. However I want to be selecting all four players from the [Australian] top 10."
Right now, Biwer and his fledgling team are starting with little foundation, yet a clean slate. While there may be focus placed on the elite end of the sport, he recognised where most of the opportunity and growth would come from.
"3X3 is a fantastic participation sport, especially for the kids. There are only four players in a team, and given the pace of the game, everyone gets to play. There is nobody left sitting on the bench - nobody misses out."
The more people who play the sport, the greater the foundation from which to build upon. Biwer takes his first big step forward this week.