FIBA 3x3 World Cup in France


Four Australian women will fly into the unknown on Thursday but their journey could be the first step towards Olympic success.

WNBL players Rebecca Cole (Melbourne Boomers), Amelia Todhunter, Carley Mijovic (both Dandenong Rangers) and Nadeen Payne (Bendigo Spirit) will represent Australia at the FIBA 3x3 World Cup in Nantes, France, starting on Saturday.

Basketball Australia has experimented with the line-ups sent to earlier events and this year opted for four WNBL players but only announced their selections in mid-May.

Last week the International Olympic Committee included three-on-three basketball in the Tokyo Olympics and like women's rugby sevens in Rio, there is the potential for an organised and well-trained Australian side to score an Olympic medal.

Men's basketball has been one of the biggest Olympic events since the USA Dream Team entered the 1992 Olympics while Australia has won several medals in women's Olympic basketball.

But for several years FIBA has been working towards making "3x3" an international event in its own right as nations without an established basketball framework can more easily form competitive teams.

Tournaments run in just four days or less, are played on a rubber outdoor court and the games are decided by the first team to score 21 points or whoever is in front after 10 minutes of play.

FIBA decides who plays in the World Cup by which countries have the highest "rankings points" in their respective regions and New Zealand is beating Australia in this area but is only fielding a men's team so the women's place defaulted to the Australians.

Australia is the second-lowest-ranked nation in the 20-team World Cup and none of the players have played in the shorter form due to their WNBL and South East Australian Basketball League commitments.

An Australia side of Kelly Bowen, Isabella Brancatisano, Jenni Screen and Maddison Rocci just missed out on the knockout rounds in last year's World Cup so there is hope this year's team can succeed.

Eastern European nations have been the early leaders in the sport and many countries have their own designated 3x3 players who train and play full time.

New Zealand has an established three-on-three tour which lets their players accumulate ranking points whereas Australia only has a few events, most of them run by the privately run Champions League Basketball.

CLB plans to launch a national tour later this year and general manager Matt Hollard volunteered to take three of the four women through a training session in Frankston on Monday night to review the rules.

Payne was completing playing commitments in Queensland with Mackay so Boomers forward Ryan Broekhoff filled in for her.

The session was their first chance to use the 3x3 ball which is heavier and has more defined finger grips than an indoor basketball.

Cole said the players were proud to present Australia and would back their talents to adapt.

"It was a bit different, I didn't shoot that well early but now I'm shooting great," Cole said.

"They say the ball is a size six but it is a bit heavier and a tiny bit bigger than what us girls use.

"It was a bit difficult but we are basketballers so we will use it for a week and get used to it."

Todhunter has a new teaching job at Dandenong High School and had to cancel a trip to Vietnam for her neighbour's wedding but the 29-year-old WNBL stalwart jumped at the chance to play for Australia.

"I'd rather represent my country than go on a holiday," Todhunter said.

"When I heard it could possibly be an Olympic sport I was sceptical so it's exciting news it has been accepted and to be a part of the Australian team is even more exciting.

"I went into the new school to set up on Wednesday then when we get back I'll start there."

Mijovic, a 196-centimetre forward with a strong three-point shot, will play in France and then fly to Phoenix, Arizona, for the Australian Opals training camp with new coach Sandy Brondello so she will get a taste of both forms of Olympic basketball.

"I got the call to say I was selected and I had to look it up to see exactly what this 3x3 basketball was," Mijovic said.

"I'd heard of it but not watched it. It looks like fun, it's quick, up tempo and go-go-go so I think we can pick it up quickly.

"It's also more of a chance to go to the Olympics for girls who may miss out on the Opals side and it's exciting for the sport."

FIBA will live-stream all games on 3x3 Planet YouTube channel


Australian women's draw for FIBA 3x3 World Cup:

June 18: Australia v Ukraine at 1.20am

June 18: Australia v China at 2.50am

June 20: Australia v Japan at 2am

June 20: Australia v Netherlands at 4.50am

June 21-22: Quarter finals (10.50pm) – gold medal game (5am)