While basketball in Malta has been around and is set up through the few clubs around the island, the sport’s smaller-sized equivalent – 3×3 – has yet to gain traction among local players. After a recent clinic which took place at the Ta’ Qali pavilion at the end of September, Kurt Aquilina spoke with 3×3 Malta representative Steffi De Martino about the event…
3×3 Malta takes care of all of the game’s events, all of which are recognised by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), and organises sporadic tournaments in four categories: Open Men, Open Women, and the U-18s version of both competitions.
Asked about the clinic, De Martino explained that the purpose of the event was to create a 3×3 community in Malta with a bit more awareness of the game.
“Over the past few years, 3×3 in Malta was mainly dominated by foreigners, especially in the male sector, with the female sector rather dormant,” she explained.
“Most players didn’t understand the possibility of qualifying for large international games with 3×3, such as Commonwealth (Games) and Olympics, which would be close to impossible for the Maltese national team in 5×5 basketball.
“With this in mind, we decided to organise a 3×3 clinic open for all players and coaches to understand 3×3 and its rules, how it differs from the original game even in terms of preparation and how we could prepare for such large scale event.”
The clinic was led by Malta women’s coach Angela Adamoli, who was also at one point a 3×3 world championship-winning coach with the Italian national team.
However, while De Martino said the clinic was a positive experience for those who participated, it was only attended by current players and believes “it would have been great to have coaches and clubs involved to understand how to start preparing players for 3×3, which in truth is the basis of basketball.”
“We need the clubs to back this to be able to proceed. Sometimes we find stumbling blocks with the clubs that don’t allow their players to play 3×3 in case of injury – which is not the right mentality and unfortunately hinders the growth of 3×3,” De Martino said.
Asked about how this mentality can change, De Martino remarked that understanding should be the first step.
“I think the first thing is that they need to do is understand and recognise 3×3 as a sport. Overseas there are even U-12 3×3 teams – as I said, this is the basis of basketball and will help athletes develop their game,” she said.
“I don’t think there’s much that could incentivise them as it’s not possible for players to play both 3×3 and basketball during the season – but they should support and push their players to participate in all tournaments that are done offseason and during breaks.
“If they understand the benefits the game gives to players, it should be enough of an incentive.”
With regards the next steps for the sport, 3×3 Malta is set to organise a number of tournaments, especially due to the fact that the only way a country’s federation can qualify for tournaments like the Olympics is through a points system.
“The only way Malta can compete is if tournaments are organised and players attend. It’s that simple, but unfortunately work needs to be done to create the 3×3 community we’re dreaming of,” De Martino explained.
“The biggest stumbling block we have is that the pool of players for basketball and 3×3 is the same and therefore are already committed to the league. So, such tournaments need to be created when the league is paused – such as the Christmas break, summer months etc.”
FIBA are also trying to push players to choose a sport – 5×5 or 3×3, by creating international tournaments that are on the same dates.
“In Malta, this is difficult. But the 3×3 street atmosphere is attracting a lot of players who have retired early or stopped playing for reasons of commitment and we are aiming to bring all these players back to join our community,” De Martino said.
Asked about the response from the Malta Basketball Association (MBA), she insisted that they have received great support from the local governing body.
“Their (MBA) response was fantastic. They are helping us and supporting us all the way with this as they too believe with 3×3 we can reach high targets,” she said.
The clinic also served as an introductory trial session for players in terms of a national team. While the Malta 3×3 national team has competed in some competitions abroad, there has not been a concrete structure in place yet.
“After the clinic, we organised a tournament which was in the form of national team trials.
“The aim was to start getting an idea of who’s interested and how players play in a 3×3 setting,” De Martino said.
“The result was positive with a total of 10 teams who participated. However, it’s important to note that players can only participate in the national team events if they are ranked within FIBA – which is only possible by playing tournaments.
“In short, you could be the best player but if you don’t have points to your name you can’t represent the country.
“So, the upcoming tournaments will help mould players for 3×3 and provide more insight to coaches as to who could represent Malta.”