For the first time in a while, Maddy Siegrist feels a little out of place and short on confidence. She already is anticipating some difficulties, barriers even, and admits it won’t always be easy to speak up.
“I might be able to formulate a few basic sentences,” she said. “But I don’t know how much else I’ve got.”
Yeah, those lessons from high school Spanish class do tend to fade without regular practice.
Nevertheless, el lenguaje del baloncesto es universal.
Continuing a basketball journey that has taken the Poughkeepsie native farther than she had dreamed, Siegrist arrived late Thursday in the Dominican Republic, set to represent the United States.
The Villanova University senior was among six college hoops stars selected to the USA Basketball women’s 23-and-under 3x3 team that will compete in an International Basketball Federation tournament, beginning this weekend.
“It’s such an honor, not only to be playing for my school and community, but for the country,” Siegrist told the Journal. “This isn’t even something I dreamed of. I didn’t think I’d ever get an opportunity like this.”
Then opportunity knocked — well, called — last month. Following a superb collegiate season that culminated in her being named Big East Player of the Year, Siegrist was invited by USA Basketball to an audition in Miami.
Tryouts lasted three days, featuring some of the top college players in the country showcasing their skills in two two-hour practice and scrimmage sessions daily. From the pool, six players were chosen earlier this week for the roster that will compete in the 3-on-3 tournament, which runs Aug. 13-19 in Santo Domingo. The format, of course, is a departure from the standard 5-on-5 template most often utilized in organized basketball.
“We do some of those (3-on-3) drills at schools, so it wasn’t unfamiliar to me,” Siegrist said of practices at Villanova. “It’s still an adjustment because these are new teammates and it’s not the style that we’re most used to, but it’s something that’s gotten more popular the last few years.”
If the team is successful here, they could eventually play a literal game of Around the World.
The FIBA 3x3 Nations League, in its fifth year, is a 3-on-3 team competition for men and women under the age of 23. It essentially is a developmental program, allowing the athletes to sharpen their skills in preparation, potentially, for future events such as the FIBA World Cup and Olympics.
This tournament includes 57 teams grouped and competing in different geographic regions, including multiple divisions in Africa, Europe and Asia.
The United States will be part of a six-team "Americas" group ― with Argentina, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela ― split into two pools. The teams will compete each day in two pool play games, with the winners advancing to a final game in the evening. That will continue for the six days and the top-performing teams from each group earn berths to the final in Romania next month.
Siegrist is joined on the U.S. roster by University of Texas standout Aaliyah Moore, Alyssa Utsby (North Carolina), Kayla Wells (Texas A&M), Maddy Westbeld (Notre Dame) and Celeste Taylor, a Long Island native who plays for Duke.
“I knew of them, but I didn’t know any of them before we got together here,” the Our Lady of Lourdes High School graduate said of her new teammates. “I think we’ll be able to build chemistry quickly, though. We’ve used our time in the airport and at the hotel to get to know each other and the connection on the court shouldn’t be that difficult.”
Siegrist drew cheers from the group after swishing a half-court shot during practice Friday morning, footage of which was shared on USA Basketball’s 3x3 Twitter account.
These players are serving somewhat as basketball ambassadors, with this tournament and others like it helping to further globalize the sport.
“I’ve never been part of something like this before, competing internationally,” said Siegrist, who had vacationed before to Kenya and a handful of Caribbean countries. “But it’s definitely cool seeing the game continue to grow and, hopefully, being part of that growth.”
A versatile scorer with length and shooting touch, the 6-foot-1 forward twice was named the Journal’s Player of the Year in high school and has gone on to dominate at Villanova. Siegrist was the nation’s second leading scorer last winter as a redshirt junior, averaging 25.3 points and 9.2 rebounds in fueling the Wildcats’ resurgent season.
“I haven’t really allowed myself to stop and think about it too much, but I’m amazed all the time about where this game has taken me,” she said. “It’s a blessing and I know I’m fortunate to have had this success and get these opportunities from basketball.”
This article originally appeared on Poughkeepsie Journal: Siegrist, Poughkeepsie native, plays with USA Basketball 3x3 team