The nation’s leading high school girls basketball scorer in the 2016-17 season, one of the top post players in the Class of 2017 and two of the top five recruits in the Class of 2018 are heading to China next week to represent USA Basketball in the FIBA 3×3 U18 World Cup for Women.
Texas signee Destiny Littleton, a McDonald’s All American, averaged 48.1 points per game for The Bishop’s School (LaJolla, Calif.). Janelle Bailey, a North Carolina signee from Providence Day (Matthews, N.C.), was a McDonald’s All-American and ranked No. 4 among post players by ESPNw.
Christyn Williams, a 5-11 guard from Central Arkansas Christian School (North Little Rock, Ark.), is ranked as the No. 1 rising senior by ESPNw. Aquira DeCosta, a 6-2 wing from St. Mary’s (Stockton, Calif.), is ranked as the No. 5 rising senior.
Team USA has a strong history in the event with a 41-5 overall mark with gold medals at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, and the 2012 and 2013 FIBA 3×3 U18 World Championships. The Americans won silver at the 2015 and 2016 3×3 U18s, and bronze medals at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and 2011 3×3 U18 Worlds.
USA TODAY High School Sports spoke with Williams and DeCosta about 3X3, heading into the event that features 20 countries and runs June 28 to July 2.
Q: How did you get involved in 3×3 and being part of Team USA?
DeCosta: My coaches and I were discussing 3X3 Basketball at a point in time so I was very interested in trying it out and seeing how it goes. When I found out that USA Basketball had a 3X3 team for U18, I was immediately wanting to be a part of it. And when they picked me I was very excited to see how it goes.
Williams: USA Basketball selected a four-member team to compete in a tournament that was held in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center. We played against other applicant 3×3 teams and whoever won the tournament were named to U18 3×3 World Cup team. We won the tournament and here we are.
Q: How does it change the way you play?
DeCosta: 3X3 basketball in general is very fast-paced and more dependent on defense over regular five-on-five basketball. I’m more focused on defending my defender one-on-one and trying to score and beat people off the dribble and look for the open shot.
Williams: It changes the way I play because defensively it really focuses on a lot of one-on-one situations. You have to be quicker and faster on defense every possession because there are only three of you so there’s no help side. You are forced to play straight up. Offensively, your basketball IQ has no choice but to grow because you have to know when to go one-on-one, pass it to the post, call for a screen because there’s also a 12 second shot clock. So it just makes you more mindful and not just out there playing basketball.
Q: Does playing 3X3 help you when you return to the more traditional five-on-five game?
DeCosta: It most definitely helps me when I return to regular five-on-five basketball because I’ll be quicker both offensively and defensively. Also, my communication is improving because of 3X3 basketball so I should be able to become more of a leader on the court.
Williams: It really does help you grow in five-on-five because you have two more people out there on the court to help you, so that gives you more freedom offensively and defensively. Also, it helps with conditioning. I know it’s halfcourt and all but you are sprinting non-stop for 10 minutes straight or until you get to 21 so you are going to get into good shape.
Q: What do you think about 3×3 being added to the 2020 Olympics?
DeCosta: I think it is great that 3X3 basketball is being added to the 2020 Olympics because the game is truly amazing. I love every bit of it, and I’m glad that others can experience how great it is.
Williams: I think it’s cool for them to add this as an Olympic sport because it’s very different from 5 on 5 so it just opens up more opportunities for a lot of different people. Hopefully, I can pursue that one day.