It was a week of news coming from USA Basketball. On Dec. 8, Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve was named head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team for 2021–’24. Her skills will be tested pretty quickly as there will be a FIBA World Cup in 2022. The winner of the gold medal receives automatic qualification to the 2024 Olympic Games.
On Dec. 9, Kara Lawson was named 2021 USA Basketball 3×3 Coach of the Year. Lawson, head coach of Duke women’s basketball, coached the U.S. women to gold in 3×3’s Olympic debut. Then on Dec. 10, Allisha Gray of the Dallas Wings, a member of that inaugural team, received USA Basketball’s first-ever 3×3 Athlete of the Year.
“Being in the Olympics, the Opening Ceremony, seeing all the other athletes, it was a moment I will never forget,” said Gray. “Seeing other countries, seeing Olympians from other sports…overall it was cool. It sucked because of COVID you didn’t get to experience it with the fans, but it was still a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Gray was a part of USA Basketball’s National Team pool. She was offered a spot on the 3×3 team, which made its Olympic debut in Tokyo. 3×3 is an incredibly fast-paced game. Making it more challenging is that the coach isn’t on the court with the players during the game.
“You really had to communicate with your teammates and everyone had to be on one accord because if one person was off it was pretty noticeable,” said Gray. “We had pregame meal and then after pregame meal we would literally go over schemes and plays that we wanted to run against that specific team.
“Coach Kara had us prepared so once the game started, we knew what plays to run, we knew what to expect,” she added. “It was just up to us to execute the plan.”
Neither Gray nor her teammates Stefanie Dolson, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young had much experience playing 3×3, unlike many of the teams they faced. They relied on their talent, training camps and learning as they went through the Olympic qualifying process.
“We got the ultimate goal, which was the gold medal,” said Gray, who in Tokyo marveled at her journey from smalltown Sandersville, Georgia to the Olympics.
Gray feels blessed for the 3×3 Athlete of the Year recognition. She thanked her parents for all they did when she was growing up, seeing to it she got the best basketball opportunities, which included driving her to Atlanta for AAU practice and then to tournaments on the weekends.
“My parents sacrificed a lot for me to be able to be in the position I am today,” said Gray. “I am so grateful.”