Nebraska Basketball

Former Huskers Take Part in American 3Baller Tournament

August 17, 2020
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The COVID-19 pandemic has derailed a lot of plans this season, and that includes the original schedule for the FIBA-endorsed American 3Baller event in Omaha. 

What was originally slated to a be a multi-weekend event open to the public in downtown Omaha turned into two days of competition at a private facility in Gretna. Despite all the complications and last-minute changes, however, American 3Baller was able to name it’s champion on Sunday as League MVP Dylan Travis and teammates Steffon Bradford, Trey Bardsley and Klaye Rowe took home the bragging rights — and the cash prize.

“Michael Wranovics, who ran the event, did a great job,” Travis said. “Doing it all in one weekend, getting 16 of the best players in Omaha to compete and to have cash money on the line, that makes it a lot more competitive and it was just fun playing basketball again. I’ve been coaching and stuff at Westside, so it’s fun to get back on the playing side for the first time in months. I just had fun out there.”

3x3 basketball is a version of halfcourt three-on-three with an augmented set of rules. Games last 10 minutes or until a team reaches 21 points, and score is kept in 1s and 2s. There is a 12-second shot clock and play is continuous, meaning after one team scores the other takes the ball out of the net, clears it to the 3-point line then immediately puts it back into play. 3x3 recently became an official Olympic sport and will debut during the 2021 Olympic Games,

Wranovics, the CEO of 3BALL USA and event organizer, assembled a field of 16 players from the area including former Huskers Bradford, Dachon Burke Jr. and Anton Gill, Tre’Shawn Thurman (Omaha Central and Nevada alumnus), Nick Billingsley (Omaha Central and Texas-San Antonio product), Malik Hluchoweckyj (Bellevue West and Emporia State grad) and others. 

The players were split up into teams of four and teams were shuffled every two games. Players earned individual points each time their team won. The tournament consisted of eight games on Saturday and eight more on Sunday plus the championship game, all played at the Hoffman’s Hoops Academy Facility in Gretna owned by basketball trainer and coach Brian Hoffman. Only even staff, players and media were allowed in the building in an effort to keep the athletes safe.

After the eight pool games, Travis and Bellevue University graduate Richard Shepherd were tied atop the player standings and were named team captains for the championship game. They each picked three teammates from the field of players.

“It came down to Rich [Shepherd] and me; we were tied with the same amount of points after these two days It was a coin flip and I ended up winning, so I took Trey Bardsley from Beatrice — sharpshooter,” Travis said. “He took his two picks, and then I took Klaye Rowe and Steffon Bradford. People don’t know this, but we played 3x3 all last summer, so we played four tournaments together. We have plays already in, so it was a no-brainer to go with that team.”

Shepherd selected Burke, Midland graduate James Parrott and UNK alumnus Trey Lansman for his team.

Sunday produced some high competitive games, but the championship wasn’t one of them. Travis’s team ran away with it for a 21-9 win thanks to Bardsley, the former Nebraska Wesleyan standout, who caught fire and knocked down seven shots from beyond the arc en route to scoring 15 points. Rowe, who graduated from Bellevue University, scored four points. Bradford chipped in two points. Travis didn’t score but dished out nine assists.

“It’s so different,” Travis said about the game. “Five-on-five is hard; you have to been shape, don’t get me wrong. But here, you cannot take a play off. That’s what happened — they took plays off and Trey got five 3s in a row. So you can’t sleep for one second. You’ll get exposed if you don’t play defense, you have to be able to create your own shot and you have to have a high basketball IQ to play 3x3.”

Travis is one of the best players to come out of Omaha Gross and his collegiate career took him from Midland to Iowa Central to Florida Southern, where he won a Division II national championship. Travis has played professionally overseas and he was also among the players selected to try out for the USA Basketball 3x3 team back in February. His well-rounded game is perfectly suited for the 3x3 styled his experience in the sport gave him a leg up on the competition.

“It helped a lot,” Travis said. “I played three tournaments before this, I had a USA Olympics camp tryout in Chicago, which was just a week straight of playing. That experience helped a lot, and I have to give a shoutout to Michael for making this happen.”

Burke led Team Shepherd with six points.

Travis’s team took home the $4,000 cash prize to split four ways, and Travis got a bonus for winning league MVP based on his cumulative record throughout the entire event, though he wasn’t quite sure immediately after the tournament how he was going to spend it.

“I’ll probably take my girl out and invest some of it,” Travis said.

As for Bradford, the grizzled veteran has had a pretty good few weeks on the hardwood after his team also won the title at the Omaha Metro Pro-Am Summer league. 

Burke came up short on the court on Sunday, but on Saturday morning he was among the 18 student-athletes who received their undergraduate degrees from Nebraska. 

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Former Huskers Take Part in American 3Baller Tournament

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