Ira Brown Finds New Opportunity In 3-On-3 USA Basketball
SPOKANE, Wash. - This past weekend was a whirlwind one for former Gonzaga University men's basketball player Ira Brown.
As a result, he's head to Athens, Greece, Aug. 23-26 as a member of the 2012 USA Basketball 3x3 National Team that will represent the U.S. at the inaugural FIBA 3x3 World Championship. Prior to departing for Athens, the team will reconvene at the USOTC for a training camp Aug. 17-20.
"I got a call Thursday morning from a friend asking me if I wanted to go play in a tournament. I asked what kind of tournament, and he said it was possibly for USA Olympics. I didn't believe him at first, so I told him to give me something more concrete and I'd think about it," Brown said Monday as he recalled the hectic four days. "He gave me the website. I took a look at the website, kind of got excited, but I didn't get my hopes up too much. I asked about hotel, accommodations and everything. He said hotels are paid for and the only thing I'd have to pay was my flight. I viewed it as an opportunity of a lifetime. Not very many people can say they did anything with USA Basketball, so I jumped at it."
Before he knew it he was in Colorado Springs, and they didn't waste any time getting the teams down to business.
"As soon as I got there we had a meeting explaining how everything works, how the game is played with 3-on-3 and then jumped into everything. We did skills drills and shooting drills, and after that we just started playing. We played three games that night and won all three. Came back the following day and played three games and won those and they were all close except for one we won by five points," Brown said. "The final day we played two games, the semis and of course the championship. The semi game we barely won 15-14 in the final seconds. The 10-minute time clock expired, we got a free throw and were able to win it. The championship game was all about us. Our backs were against the wall. We were undefeated, as well as the other team (Castle Rock out of Denver), but we had the stronger team. It was a fairly good win for us. We got gold medals and everything."
Brown's team - Desert Pro-Am - was comprised of Phoenix, Ariz., players who knew each other from playing in leagues and gyms in the Phoenix area.
"One guy I knew from community college (Phoenix College), Tyree Hardge, shoots the heck out of the ball. He'd taken some time off because things hadn't gone his way in the basketball world, but he wanted to get back into it. He called me up to play and that's how we re-connected. Allen DuBois Williams played at Saint Mary's and Adetayo Adesanya was from Purdue University. We had a decent squad; we were alright," said Brown, who played for the Bulldogs during the 2008-09 seasons after two seasons at Phoenix College.
Hardge was named MVP of the trials, scoring 12 points in the title game, hitting 5-of-6 shots from beyond the arc (2 points are awarded from beyond the arc in 3-on-3) and 7-of-8 shots overall.
Brown, probably most remembered for his thunderous, high-flying dunks while at Gonzaga, laughed when asked what his 3-on-3 strength is.
"I wouldn't necessarily say I have strength. My game has evolved quite a bit since I've been at Gonzaga. I can shoot the three, penetrate the basket and have fun with the game. I don't have a role, I just try to rebound and get my team shots, and of course attack, because that's my strong suit to attack the rim and dunk. I can actually hit the three now, so I just try to play my hardest, give 100 percent and go out and get wins. I wish they had film of the tournament. It was a great tournament. I had some amazing highlights, but I got a lot of dunks," the usually modest Brown, who is wearing his number 50 jersey, acknowledged.
According to Brown, there is a lot of difference between 3-on-3 and standard 5-on-5 basketball
"They are extremely different. The 5-on-5 is an up-and-down game, 3-on-3 is a side-to-side game. It's all about you being able to score and stop your defender. It's nothing like 5-on-5, which is a team sport; 3-on-3 is a team situation but at the same time you have to be able to defend your guy 1-on-1 because if there's any help side the ball gets swung quickly and the guy can get an easy three or penetrate for an easy basket. It's a much more difficult game, I think personally, because it's fewer players," Brown analyzed.
Since leaving Gonzaga, Brown has played two seasons in Mexico, one year in Argentina, a couple of months in the Philippines and this past season played in Japan, guarding another former Zag Derek Raivio in one game. He doesn't know where he will end up - if anywhere overseas - following his USA Basketball commitment.
"I got offers to go back to Japan and first-division Argentina. I'm waiting to see what happens with this (3-on-3) thing. Just by going to USA Basketball I'm sure there will be some tremendous opportunities. I met a guy who works with the Washington Wizards who has quite a few connections, and we're trying to figure out a higher market in Europe," Brown listed as another possibility.
Brown, a professional baseball pitcher prior to developing arm problems and switching to basketball and attending Phoenix College, said Japan was interested in him playing both basketball and baseball. But he's not viewing that as an option.
As for the next five weeks prior to heading back to Colorado Springs for the pre-Athens training camp, Brown will be plenty busy working out in Spokane getting ready for his next 3-on-3 action.
"With our time off they want us to hit the weight room, get up tons and tons of shots, stay on the move and get a lot of cardio in because it is such a fast game, a much faster game than playing 3-on-3 regular. They want us to be in great shape when we get to Athens," Brown noted. "When we get there we'll go over plays, rules of the game, how to get easy baskets and watch film of other countries. We're still a young team and is the first time playing with each other. I think we have a tremendous upside."
Brown said the FIBA 3-on-3 organizers hope to introduce the game as an Olympic sport as early as the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Who knows, if Brown sticks with the sport it might be "Olympian" Ira Brown. But he'll have more time to prepare then the whirlwind four days he just completed.