Jay Demings knows a thing or two about being a part of building something.
Before he was the director of youth and sports development for USA Basketball, Demings spent nearly two decades involved in boys and girls basketball. From the Boys and Girls Club to coaching varsity girls hoops, Demings now has found a similar way to make an impact with USA Basketball.
When he first joined USA Basketball, there wasn’t a youth basketball division at the time. He saw youth soccer, volleyball and hockey take off and asked himself, “Why not basketball?”
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He took the initiative, and it didn’t end with youth basketball. Demings took notice of how 3-on-3 basketball was growing around the United States and the world. Like with youth basketball, he saw something special in the unique 3-on-3 version of the popular sport.
Now as Demings prepares for the annual 3×3 International Cup, which will be hosted by the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on Sunday, he reflected on what his favorite part of the job is.
“I think the opportunity to be a part of something that is growing and developing in its formative years,” Demings told NBC Sports California. “3x3 is a modified version of 5-on-5 because, obviously, the object is the same, the basketball in the hoop. Stop the other team from doing it. It's fast-paced, it's exciting. And basically, it takes all what I believe are the best parts of basketball, the purest parts of basketball, and condenses it down into one intense 10-minute game. So there's competitiveness, there's no walking the ball up the floor. There's no taking a play off. You really have to be into it.
“So that's what drew it to me. Or drew me to it. And how I actually got involved in it at USA Basketball is that before the sport was in the Olympic Games, we rolled the division underneath our youth development initiative to try to grow the sport at the grassroots level. And then FIBA was able to get an International Olympic Committee to approve it to be an Olympic sport in what ended up being the 2021 games in Tokyo. And so now it's taken on more of a national team component, which is fun.”
While some might hear 3x3 and confuse it with 3-on-3 streetball at a local park with some friends, FIBA formalized the sport which has been in the Youth Olympic Games since 2010, the European Games since 2015 and the Olympic Games since 2020.
The format, as Demings alluded to, is much different from traditional 5-on-5 basketball. There are four players on a team and three players from each team on the court at a time. Games are played on a compact half-court setup and are fast-paced with 12-second shot clocks. The game ends in 10 minutes or when a team reaches 21 points.
The 19-game event will take place Oct. 1 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Golden 1 Center. The event is open to all ages and free to the public, with tickets required for admission. The first 5,000 fans who attend will receive a limited-edition trading card featuring former Kings guard Jimmer Fredette, who will be playing for Team Miami in the tournament.
The 12-team tournament will include the local champions of last year's event, Team Sacramento, which consists of Mark Payne, Drake U’u, Reggie Willhite and New Williams.
Demings is grateful to the Kings for hosting this year’s event, and hopes it could help bring more exposure to the tournament and the sport as a whole. Through his involvement in youth basketball over the years and his time with USA Basketball, Demings has had the opportunity to travel around the world. Some of his favorite places he’s visited include Vienna, Austria, Tokyo, Japan and the Netherlands.
This weekend will be his first trip to Sacramento, though. And although he’ll soon be making his 916 debut, he kept tabs on Kings basketball from afar last season, wherever he was in the world.
“Oh, you couldn't help but watch it,” Demings said. “They had such an exciting year. So obviously, what we do at USA Basketball in the 5-on-5 sizes, you know, we're always at departments always scouting and looking at players that are potential fit for, you know, national teams. So yeah, we always had games on and things like that. And they had such a successful year that I think he couldn't help but get excited for what they're building there or have built there and continue to build.
“... They're going to have success for years to come there with the foundation that they've made. So I'm excited. This is my first time coming to Sacramento as well. So I'm excited to see the arena, the things surrounding the arena, but hopefully, it won't be our last time. And this is a great auxiliary that the Kings are putting on getting involved in 3x3. They're one of the first NBA teams to put on 3x3 events. There have been others, but to do it at this magnitude and to have their event feed to a FIBA Masters event is one of the first ever to do that as well. So I'm just excited to be able to see the opportunity."
Fans can claim their complimentary tickets here. Parking will be available for $5 in the DOCO West garage.