Tournament brings three-on-three basketball to Dartmouth

By Douglas McCulloch | Aug 06, 2017
Photo by: Douglas McCulloch Nosa Igamu, 15, with control of the basketball as opposing teammates Cole Pimental, 14, and Connor Strangis, 14, play defensively.

The latest trend in basketball is not taller players, but smaller teams, transforming the Springfield, Mass.-born sport into something new altogether.

The newly formed Northeast 3x3 Basketball Federation introduced three-on-three basketball at an inaugural tournament on August 4-6 at the Burgo Basketball Association courts on Slocum Road.

The sport is similar to basketball, except gameplay is limited to three players from each team on the court at a time. Games are typically shorter; the Dartmouth tournament included a 21-minute and 42-point limit. Substitutions are limited, as each team can only have four players on their rosters, and only a half-court is used.

The result is a fast-paced and more intimate game that is recognized as one of the fastest-growing sports in the world. In June, the International Olympic Committee announced 3x3 basketball will be one of several new sports debuted at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

“It’s extremely popular in other countries, and the rules are meant to make the game very fun and fast-paced,” said Burgo alumnus and New Bedford native Zach Rocha, who heads the basketball federation.

Although particularly popular in large urban areas of South America and Europe, the game is not as widely played in the United States. But at the beginning of the year, with news that businessman and celebrity Ice Cube is working to form the first professional three-on-three basketball circuit — called the "BIG3" — in the United States, Rocha knew it was time to bring the sport to New England.

He reached out to BBA President Steve Burgo with the idea of hosting a three-on-three basketball tournament over the summer.

“We’ve known each other for a long time. [Rocha] started playing basketball in our original courts, and he saw what we have here now and asked if we wanted to host the tournament,” Burgo said.

Both Burgo and Rocha were impressed with the turnout and success of the tournament. With the inaugural event in the rearview, the aim is to turn it into a yearly tradition and expand.

“We hope to not only have [a tournament] here, but also in other communities in New England,” Rocha explained, adding that he’s already heard from communities in Massachusetts and as far away as North Carolina and Texas interested in tournaments.

Players, too, found the new format refreshing. Aidan Finn, Naji Karam, and Nosa Iyamu formed Team Swarm, and took home the top prize in the boys’ high school division. The unique format meant relying on each player’s unique strengths — Finn’s talent as a point guard, Karam’s shooting skills, and Iyamu’s driving abilities — to take the win.

“Individual play is still important, but you’re also more reliant on your teammates,” Finn explained.

Naji Karam with control of the ball for Team Swarm. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
The final two teams in the high school boys' division pose for a photo after the championship game. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
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