Written By Sam Oshtry
If you like basketball, watch basketball or have played basketball at any level, you’ve probably played a pickup game of 3×3 at some point in your life.
Depending on your competitive level, maybe you’ve thrown an elbow on a rebound, set too hard of a screen or it’s got so competitive that a physical altercation ensued. Or, maybe it’s a relaxed game of pick-up with your friends.
Now imagine the stakes of that 3×3 game raised; representing America in the 21st Maccabiah with the hopes of bringing home the gold medal. That’s the reality for the Maccabiah USA men’s and women’s 3×3 team, who will compete in Netanya, Israel in a half court style basketball event, the first time in the Maccabiah.
The 3×3 game may seem like a non-traditional version of the typical five-on-five full court basketball everyone has grown accustomed to, but this iteration of the sport has been popularized in recent years with the creation of the BIG3 basketball league in the United States, a league for former professional players. 3×3 basketball also became an official Olympic sport for the 2021 Olympics, and the Maccabiah followed suit.
For anyone familiar with the rules of pickup basketball, the regulations aren’t too different in the Maccabiah.
Each team consists of four members but only three players can be on the court at once for each team. The games are 10 minutes or first team to 21 points, whichever comes first. Like streetball rules, three-pointers are worth two points and anything inside the arc is worth one point. There is also a 12-second shot clock.
However, it is not make it, take it; the team that is scored on grabs the ball out of the net, and once they do, play is live and the shot clock starts ticking, but the offensive team must bring it back to the three-point line before they can score.
The ball is also smaller than a typical basketball. On top of that, the games are played on an outdoor court right on the beach. While scenic views are part of the gig, so are windy conditions that can make it difficult to shoot.
Every team has a coach; however, they are not allowed to roam the sideline or instruct their players during competition. That means it is up to the players to call plays, make substitutions and call their own timeouts.
“I hope I’ve prepared them enough they don’t need me to be on the sideline,” Mike Shapiro said, who is the head coach of the men’s open team.
The rules, and the sport, allow for fast-paced play that involves a ton of movement on both sides of the ball.
“It encourages less dead stoppages and more playing and constant movement and action,” Shapiro said. “And the emphasis on players being able to create on their own”
Many of the players on the open men’s team played collegiate basketball, including Jacob Orender who played at Lafayette and California and, according to Shapiro, is a great shooter and a shifty ball handler. Orender now plays professionally in Israel. Brian Knapp is also one of the key members of the squad with Division 1 experience at Cornell and George Washington. Caleb Milobsky is another threat for the USA as a 6’6 big who has a presence on the inside and has a nice shooting touch. He played at Yeshiva University.
Orender, Knapp and Milobksy all have previous Maccabiah experience in the five-on-five competition on the 18u and 16u teams but have transitioned to 3×3.
“The biggest adjustment is going to be conditioning because it’s more nonstop than five-on-five,” Shapiro said.
The open men’s team has two different squads competing, but in different pools, so they would only run into each other in a medal game. There are 12 total teams in the tournament. The women’s open team only has one team from the United States and are competing amongst a much smaller pool.
Game action starts on July 15 for both the men’s and women’s open teams.
Sam Oshtry is Philadelphia native and a rising senior at the University of Maryland. Follow him on twitter (@soshtry) and at maccabiusa.com/maccabimedia for more coverage of the 21st Maccabiah.