Sky center Stefanie Dolson up for new challenge with 3x3 basketball

Dolson earned a spot as one of four players to represent Team USA in the 2020 FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament March 18-22 in Bengaluru, India.

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Stefanie Dolson earned a spot as one of four players to represent Team USA in the 2020 FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament March 18-22 in Bengaluru, India.

Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

The U.S. women’s national team has dominated five-on-five basketball for the last two-plus decades, winning six consecutive Olympic gold medals. But that success hasn’t carried over to the three-on-three realm.

After finishing fifth in the 2018 World Cup, the U.S. failed to qualify for the three-on-three World Cup last year and has yet to punch its ticket to Tokyo in 2020.

But newly re-signed Sky center Stefanie Dolson is hoping to change that.

After a two-day training camp in Chicago last week, Dolson earned a spot as one of four players to represent Team USA in the 2020 FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament March 18-22 in Bengaluru, India. She’ll be joined by WNBA players Napheesa Collier (Minnesota Lynx), Allisha Gray (Dallas Wings) and Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas Aces).

The top three teams in next month’s tournament will qualify for theOlympics, though it’s unclear if this quartet will be the one USABasketball will send to Tokyo.

Dolson was humbled to be chosen to represent her country on the international stage.

“It’s always an honor to wear the USA jersey, but to be able to do it in a sport that is just now starting to grow and will be in theOlympics for the first time is amazing,” Dolson said. “I can’t wait to get to the qualifiers and to try and help get us to the Olympics.”

Part of the reason USA Basketball has struggled to make its mark on three-on-three is because there aren’t a lot of opportunities for players to play that style on a regular basis. Even Dolson said she had never played three-on-three before last week.

“[It’s] super weird,” Dolson said. “I’ve watched people play, and it’s really, really hard. It’s just a different game. Everyone keeps asking, ‘Is it easier? Is it harder?’ Like, it’s neither, it’s almost a completely different game. You have to have a different stamina for the game, it’s way more physical, they don’t call a lot of fouls.”

Three-on-three plays at a much quicker tempo than what most WNBA players are used to. As a result, it requires players to be able to swiftly transition from offense to defense.

The game is played on half of a court with a 10-minute game clock and a 12-second shot clock. The first team to 21 points or the team that holds the lead at the end of regulation is the winner. If it ends in a tie, the first team to score two points wins.

Dolson wasn’t planning to participate in three-on-three competitions this offseason. But with the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association’s season suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, Dolson had extra time on her hands and decided to give it a try.

And at 6-5, Dolson’s versatility as a stretch-five and relentless defender makes her a perfect candidate for three-on-three basketball.She also enjoys the fact that she can play her aggressive approach to the game without being penalized.

“I love it because in the WNBA everyone calls every foul, so I’m gonna have to talk with them about that,” quipped Dolson, who averaged a league-high 3.7 fouls last season.

“I really like it,” she added. “I enjoy it, I wasn’t sure if I would be good at it, [but] I think I’m OK at it. I’m a great screener, everyone knows that, and I finish pretty well.”

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