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Ustby among the chosen six for USA 3-x-3 team

Rochester Lourdes graduate and University of North Carolina basketball star Alyssa Ustby has been among six picked to play on the USA Women's 3x3 Under-23 team.

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Rochester Lourdes graduate Alyssa Ustby is a junior standout for the University of North Carolina women's basketball team.
Contributed / Jeffrey A. Camarati
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Alyssa Ustby felt like a contestant on “The Bachelorette,” waiting out the rose ceremony.

Only this time the Rochester Lourdes graduate and University of North Carolina junior wasn’t among a pack of girls vying for a potential date with a hunky guy. Instead, there were 11 young women lined up, hoping to be one of six chosen for a 23-and-under 3 on 3 basketball team.

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One by one, the six were called out.

Those selected will represent a USA women’s U-23 team, which on Thursday will travel to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, for a week’s worth of games in the U23 Nations League.

Eleven women had been invited to the tryout in Miami Lakes, Fla., the 6-foot-2 ultra-athletic Ustby among them. She’d come off a terrific season at the University of North Carolina in which she’d averaged 13 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals per game, shot 45% from the field and been chosen second-team all-ACC.

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The 3-on-3 tryouts had been grueling, lasting three days, four hours per day.

“They were highly competitive practices each day,” Ustby said. “Coaches were constantly evaluating everyone.”

The 3-on-3 format, which demands versatility from its players with so much more room to operate than in the standard 5-on-5 game, fits Ustby’s skills nicely. She is quick, tall and strong enough to guard most anyone, and offensively can score inside and outside and has the guard skills and explosion to get to the hoop.

Ustby liked how she was stacking up as the tryouts rolled along.

“I was trying to stay positive and keep a good mindset,” Ustby said. “I kept telling myself, ‘If anyone can make this team, Alyssa, you can.’

“I just tried to stay true to myself and do what I do well. I wanted to utilize my basketball IQ to figure out where to be most effective, looking for matchups. If I had a small guard on me, I’d post her up and make her life miserable. If I had a ‘big’ on me, I’d drag her out, do some shot fakes and jabs and take her off the bounce. If I had a ‘big’ who was more mobile, then I’d take her out to the 3-point line and then take her off the bounce. I felt like I had an advantage in every situation.”

Ustby appreciated the feel and the demands of the 3-on-3 game, one which has gained quick popularity around the world. It is high paced, with a 12-second shot clock and games 10 minutes long, with the winner the first to 21 points.

Shots made inside the 3-point arc are worth one point, outside it worth two. There’s one substitute player on each team per game, but with 18 games about to be played within one week in the U23 Nations League, there is a need for all six players on the roster.

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Contests are played half-court and often outdoors.

By the time the tryout was done, Ustby pined to be a part of this USA team. Part of that was because the players trying out bonded so quickly.

There was a 3-hour gap between the team’s final tryout on Monday and when the 11 contestants were all lined up and the six were chosen.

The players spent it poolside, waiting anxiously for the selection time to arrive but also together, talking about things that veered far from basketball.

“Everyone was kind of freaking out,” Ustby said. “But we all bonded in that moment of uncertainty. None of us wanted to go home; we all wanted to be on the team. We all sat along the pool, chatting about things not even related to basketball. That was the coolest thing. We’d been trying so hard to dial in and focus on basketball before that, so it was a nice way to take our minds off of it.”

When the “roses” were finally handed out, Ustby’s heart was pounding. Five of the six had been chosen and Ustby hadn’t been one of them.

“Every time a name was called, my heart sank,” Ustby said.

It sank until that sixth and final spot was filled, with Ustby’s name being called.

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Elated, she then looked around and took note that all six of the chosen ones looked a lot like her, a tad over 6 feet tall, quick, strong and versatile. The perfect makings for 3-on-3 success.

The Rochester Lourdes graduate will fit right in.

Pat has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter since 1994. He covers Rochester John Marshall football, as well as a variety of other southeastern Minnesota football teams. Among my other southeastern Minnesota high school beats are girls basketball, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track and field, high school and American Legion baseball, volleyball, University of Minnesota sports (on occasion) and the Timberwolves (on occasion). Readers can reach Pat at 507-285-7723 or pruff@postbulletin.com.
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