Sky center Stefanie Dolson always wanted to win gold with Team USA.
She envisioned it would be playing five-on-five, but USA Basketball had other plans for her.
“When [Team USA] brought this opportunity to me, I had to take it,” Dolson said. “It’s always been a goal of mine to go to the Olympics.”
The dynamic with her 3x3 teammates is one she has needed to get used to.
Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas Aces), Katie Lou Samuelson (Seattle Storm), Allisha Gray (Dallas Wings) and Dolson are all in a group chat together. This week they were talking about their travel plans for the upcoming qualifying tournament.
Plum and Samuelson played against each other in a WNBA game Tuesday night before they got on a flight together from Seattle to France.
Dolson said the group is always rooting for each other. The key to successfully transitioning from competitors to teammates is having a good sense of humor. Dolson said they’re always joking with each other about past games.
As far as how the transition from a traditional five-on-five game goes, Dolson said it’s a lot easier than people might expect. The only significant adjustment is the speed of play. The ball comes out of the net, and play continues once the defending team dribbles or passes the ball behind the arc.
Physicality is a large component of success in this style of play. Dolson said there’s a lot more fouling that isn’t called.
“We were able to have a mini three-on-three tournament with the five-on-five team during training camp in San Antonio,” Dolson said. “That was fun because none of them knew the rules. It made it interesting and exciting for us.”
The tradition surrounding U.S. women’s basketball is present but not in the same way for the 3x3 team.
Dolson and her teammates are clearly aware of the winning culture established by Team USA. The U.S. women’s basketball team’s eight gold medals are more than any other nation since the sport was added to the Summer Olympics in 1976. This is the first-ever 3x3 Olympic qualifying tournament. Dolson and her teammates are looking to establish a new winning culture.
Heading into the qualifying tournament, Dolson said confidence isn’t an issue. Although, it isn’t easy to determine how they’ll stack up against their opponents because it is the team’s first official competition.
The U.S. plays Indonesia and France in the first day of preliminary games on May 27. They finish up pool play against Germany and Uruguay on May 29.
The quarterfinals, semifinals and finals all will be played on May 30 in Austria.
“It doesn’t matter to me how I get it,” Dolson said. “Being an Olympian and reaching that goal is so special.”
Leaving the Sky is always a challenge, especially during a season that carries championship expectations. Dolson has confidence that when she is competing with Team USA, the Sky’s other bigs like Astou Ndour-Fall and Azura Stevens will seamlessly fill her starting role.
Stevens was out Wednesday against the Atlanta Dream, and Sky coach and general manager James Wade has said they are taking their time easing her back into action. In the meantime, the Sky have signed rookie Natasha Mack after pursuing a hardship exception.
Mack will remain with the team until Dolson returns the first week of June.
“When I’m gone, I’ll watch every game the Sky has over here,” Dolson said. “But at the same time, I’ll be making sure I’m mentally prepared for the games I have in Austria.”