New format leaves hoopsters in the lurch

RASPREET Sidhu had a bit of an idea what to expect when she stepped onto the court at the Thyagaraj Stadium for the inaugural 3x3 basketball nationals that began on Wednesday.

Written by Jonathan Selvaraj | Published: April 11, 2013 2:30 am

RASPREET Sidhu had a bit of an idea what to expect when she stepped onto the court at the Thyagaraj Stadium for the inaugural 3×3 basketball nationals that began on Wednesday. The 23-year-old Delhi forward has grown up playing pick-up games in the half-court format and even has international experience – she was part of the Indian team that won gold in the South Asian Beach Games in 2011.

But the games of her youth hardly had any rules and those implemented at the 2011 event too have changed – the game stops the moment a side gets to 21 points as opposed to 32 originally,baskets from the two point circle count only for a solitary point,those from the three point circle count for two and the balls that have been stolen or picked up on the rebound have to be passed out of the shooting arc.

Sidhu is part of a four-member Delhi squad,comprising Prashanti Singh,Asha Hegde and Pratima Singh apart from Sidhu. The team was selected after a state competition was held between April 7-8 – just a couple of days before the start of the nationals. The nationals are being held in order to select a squad for the Asian Senior Championships from May 15.

And so while Sidhu and the other players have a bit of an idea about the rules,the rush to hold the tournament meant there was still plenty of confusion. “Because we were playing under the official rules for the first time,there were a lot of mistakes. The most common was players not clearing the shooting arc when they got a rebound or a steal. It’s not just the players who made mistakes,even the referees got confused from time to time,” Sidhu says. With the nationals being played in haste,Sidhu isn’t counting out similar mistakes cropping up.

Everything about the game,just 10 minutes long with a single 30 second time out is designed for speed. With the players calling for their own time-outs and substitutions,even a coach is considered extra baggage. Divya Singh,sister of Pratima and Prashanti,is thus accompanying the team as an official instead a coach. “It was hard on me as a coach. We aren’t allowed to enter the playing area so as to speed up the playing process. The first time it happened,I shouted that what is the use of time out if I can’t even tell the players what to do. Ultimately,I got used to it and now I just shout from the spectator gallery. It’s hard but you try and keep as much eye contact as possible,” she says.

The coach’s role,says Divya,is more in the training period. And while the Delhi team has had only two days together,Divya is confident of the side’s potential. “The main thing we focused on is power play,driving to the inner circle and a lot of inside movement,” she says.

And even as the players have come to grips with some of the rules,they have been quick to realise aspects which benefit them. “The advantage of this format is that physicality doesn’t play such an important role in it. Skill is much more crucial. The rules have made layups count for one point but shots from the three pointer line worth two points. So that effectively doubles the effectiveness of a good long range shooter,” says Sidhu.

For the 5’9″ player who often found herself crowded out by the bigger opponents the fact that there are only a total of six players on the field is a pleasant advantage. “There is a lot more space to move around and find your shot. It sometimes feels that the amount of room I have has doubled,” she says. “But at the same time,there is a lot more pressure on you because the shot clock is only 12 seconds. I have played basketball,even internationally for many years and even I found myself making mistakes under pressure,” she adds.

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