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3 On 3 Tournament Strategies

By Author: Curt Winn
Total Articles: 4777

3 on 3 Basketball Tournament Strategies

3 on 3 basketball tournaments such as Hoop-It-Up and Gus Macker have grown in popularity in recent years. As a veteran of dozens of these tournaments, and with a championship and many trips to the finals, I have come up with some helpful tips for teams to improve their results.

The Team

The makeup of your team is very important in determining your success. My experience has shown that a championship team usually has at least one GREAT shooter and one good inside player. Two great shooters is ideal because of the importance of the 2 point shot. (more on this later) Four players is the optimum number on your team so there is one substitute. Many tournaments allow five players on a team but I recommend staying with four if possible to maximize playing time and effectiveness.

The Rules

Each tournament will have different rules. I have seen and played in numerous games where knowledge of the rules has made the difference between victory and defeat. For example, in most tournaments the wooden board attached to the basketball standard is "in bounds" and play continues if the ball touches it. Many times I have seen players stop playing because they think the ball is out of bounds and an opportunistic player (like me) has grabbed the ball and scored an uncontested layup. Knowing who takes possession after a jump ball, how many timeouts allowed, when free throws are awarded, etc. are all important rules to know before you hit the court.

One rule that is very important to know is how tie breakers are resolved. Frequently you will be tied with a team that you have not yet played and the tie breaker involves some combination of total points scored or total points given up. This could influence your stategy in early games. For example, if the tie breaker is total points given up, you would want to keep up your defensive focus throughout each game, even if you were easily beating an opponent.


Many players in 3 on 3 tournaments are not experienced in playing on outdoor courts. The feel of the concrete or asphalt, the uneveness of the ground, crookedness of the rim, sun in the eyes, gravel on the ground, etc. all effect the game. A serious player should arrive at the court early enough to get a decent amount of warm-up shots in prior to starting. Pay special attention to the side of the court the sun is on, and high and low spots.

Game Strategy

The usual 3 on 3 tournament has a "2-point line" at approximately the top of the key arcing around to the baseline. Shots outside this line are worth two points and inside the line are worth one. The premium of scoring two points on a relatively close-in shot means that good two-point shooting teams have a HUGE advantage in these tournaments. Teams with multiple outside shooters usually do very well. Teams that grind the ball inside and only score one-point goals are typically beaten handily by the good shooting teams. It is very difficult to overcome the offensive firepower of a good shooting team with one point shots.

Time Limits

Most games have a 20 minute time limit and are played to 21 points. It is important to keep track of the time because you may reach the end of the time limit before the 21 points are reached. Usually the court monitor will call out the remaining time as the game nears the end, but if your team is behind by more than a few points it is helpful to know early on how much time is remaining.

Comfort and Hydrations

Most of the tournaments I've played in are in the heat of summer and I've played on teams where players have succumbed to heat exhaustion. Make sure you bring and drink plenty of water during the tournament. Also, since you will be playing multiple games in a single day, bring a fresh pair of socks for each game. You and your feet will feel refreshed at the start of each game. Waiting between games can zap your energy. Many players bring some sort of shade structure and chairs to the games so they can relax comfortably between games.

Final Thoughts

3 on 3 tournaments are a fun way to spend a weekend with friends and teammates. Get the right team together, know the rules, have a strategy and hopefully you will have a successful tournanment.
About Author:
My name is Curt Winn and I have been at top scorer in organized and pick-up basketball for years. I learned how to shoot perfectly in high school and have been playing in 3 on 3 tournaments ever since. You can visit my website at:


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