Recently, Team USA failed to qualify for the inaugural 3-on-3 basketball tournament being played in the Olympics. Team USA failed to qualify… for a 3x3 basketball tournament. Granted, the international popularity of basketball has continued to grow exponentially in recent years, but we’re talking pickup hoops! It is a downright shame. I would compare it to the United States failing to qualify in flag football. Preposterous. But it got me thinking: what if former Ohio State players would have, or could have, formed a team to compete?
This year’s team was led by former Purdue villain, Robbie Hummel. Hummel dished out plenty of punishment against the Buckeyes, so maybe we shouldn’t be too upset. The rest of the team was comprised of journeymen — none of which suited up for a regular-season NBA game in their careers. Despite the lack of known commodities, they enjoyed initial success, winning the 2019 FIBA World Cup. Current NBA players do not compete in international 3x3, and invitations were not extended to post-high school or college athletes (as far as I know). This is in stark contrast to the women’s player pool, which is comprised of WNBA talent and prospects. The women did qualify for the Tokyo games, so big props to them.
Because the men’s Olympic qualifying team was made up of “lesser” talent, the guys on the team were essentially thrown together via tryout and meshed over time. The pandemic surely threw a wrench in the plans for them to spend time together and improve, but it was also (clearly) not the best team we could have put together. Perhaps with the inclusion of 3x3 in the Olympics, the popularity will grow, and Team USA will change its roster model. If not, I have a fool-proof way of building the first 3x3 Dream Team.
We need to start with a coach. I am not sure if the U.S. team had a coach this time around, but if they did, it clearly didn’t work. We need a non-NBA or college coach, perhaps one itching to get back into the profession. It would be beneficial if he could coach a roster of players he is familiar with.
Enter: Thad Matta.
As you will see later, I have come up with specific criteria for building the roster — and Matta has coached them all. He never really wanted to get out of coaching. It was more of a forced sabbatical or retirement. This allows him to get back into the game, and do so with familiar faces as his arsenal. He would hopefully be joined by Assistant Coach, Mark Titus.
Fun times catching up with an old friend at Hinkle. pic.twitter.com/KxSyjnVW6X— Mark Titus (@clubtrillion) December 7, 2019
3x3 basketball is a different sort of game, so the team will not be made up of a traditional roster. Here are factors that went into the decision:
Age: While certain guys could still get in a solid run, none over 40 were considered. Along the same lines, players under the age of 25 are disqualified. Remember, Thad is the coach, and players recently out of college are more likely to chase the NBA.
Versatility: 3x3 is a fast-paced race to 21, or 10 minutes — whichever comes first. It also has a 12-second shot clock, making point guards and traditional centers less impactful. With those rules in place, and more space on the floor, we need players who can do a little bit of everything. As much as I love Aaron Craft for his leadership, defense, and passing, he will not score a ton or rebound in this format.
Scoring ability: First to 21, or whichever team scores the most in 10 minutes. The rules are pretty simple. While all the other facets of team basketball definitely come into play, the intentionally up-tempo game is primarily about getting buckets. It is beneficial to have players capable of scoring at all three levels.
Before the team is introduced, there are some notable omissions to point out. These guys were great Buckeyes and difficult to leave off the team. However, my roster is made up of only four players, and flexibility is of the utmost importance.
- Aaron Craft: As mentioned above, he’s somewhat lacking in scoring and rebounding ability.
- Greg Oden: Big men rarely get to sit on the block in 3x3 basketball. Also, I am just not confident in his ability to move around after all the unfortunate injuries.
- Ron Lewis/Sam Thompson: The wide-open game provides plenty of opportunity for nasty and creative dunks, and few could throw it down like Lewis and Thompson. Ultimately, there were just better scorers out there.
This team listed below is winning the U.S. of A. a gold medal. Their individual skills translate well to 3x3 basketball, and even better they are familiar with each other. They can handle the rock, pass well, get to the basket, shoot from outside, and have enough size to not be overwhelmed by any opponent. Above all else, these guys fill it up. Nobody needs a floor general in the race to 21 points.
Without further ado:
Evan Turner (2007/2008 - 2009/2010)
Ohio State’s first and only National Player of the Year since the 1960’s. The original “Villain”, Turner is the captain of this ship. He will act as de facto point guard, while giving up little if any size to other primary playmakers. He is 32 years old and just one year removed from his NBA playing career, so conditioning should not be an issue. When the team needs to drive and kick, Turned will be called upon for his extremely versatile skill set.
Although the former No. 2 overall NBA draft pick was never an All Star in the league, he carved out quite a career, primarily due to his natural ability to act as a secondary ball handler and distributor. The scoring chops aren’t what they used to be at OSU, but Turner has the ability to be efficient anywhere in the half court. Call this choice a no-brainer.
Deshaun Thomas (2010/2011 - 2012/2013)
Thomas has one job on this team, and that is to score. At 6-foot-7, he will grab enough rebounds to offset the lackluster defense. Deshaun is a walking heat check, and in a scoring race, that is the perfect mentality to have. If he gets hot, this type of game could be over in five minutes. Thomas was drafted in 2013 by the San Antonio Spurs, and averaged 12 points for them in his first NBA Summer League.
However, he ultimately pursued a professional career overseas, and occasionally popped back over here to play for another summer league team. Thomas found international success in Israel and Greece, and remains active. He signed with Alvark Tokyo last year, but those plan were interrupted by the crazy year that was 2020. At 29 years old, we are still getting prime D.T.
Jon Diebler (2007/2008 - 2010/2011)
Diebler is a sniper, plain and simple. He will float around the perimeter and drain it from deep. With Turner and Thomas on the team, there will be plenty of those drive and kick opportunities. He also competes on defense, which was always an underrated part of his game. Like D.T., Diebler was selected in the NBA draft, but has gone overseas and remained active. We have also seen him play well for Carmen’s Crew in the TBT, so there are no concerns about the current state of his game. Diebler could easily lead this 3x3 team in scoring due to his ability to knock down shots.
Jared Sullinger (2010/2011 - 2011/2012)
Last but not least, we have Big Sully. Sullinger would have been the first pick for the team if not for his style of play. He is not blessed with great speed or quickness, and tends to do most of his damage around the block. With a short shot clock, there will not be a ton of opportunities to set up plays in the post. However, as we’ve seen in the NBA and abroad, Sullinger has remained in solid shape and stretched his shooting ability out to the perimeter. He is coming off a Korean Basketball League Championship and MVP season, where he averaged 27 points per game. He would be a great asset off the bench, bringing him in for certain matchups to feast on smaller, weaker opponents.
TBT has given us a glimpse at what these guys can still do together, and also proven how tight their bond remains. Bringing Thad Matta into the fold would only help matters. Unlike the team that was recently bounced, there is history and a comradery with this group. All of them are still in their physical prime, and have performed at a high level in respectable professional leagues. This team of former Buckeye greats would dominate in the Olympics. It is a shame I’m not part of USA basketball, or this would have been my first initiative: bringing a gold medal to Columbus.
So is it too late to petition the committee? O-H!
Which former Buckeye baller was snubbed?
This poll is closed
Ron Lewis/Sam Thompson