No Days Off: Lethal Shooter Hosts Hoop Training for USA Basketball 3x3 Team
Lethal Shooter steps into the Red Bull 3X House to coach the 3x3 players on the art of the shot and staying locked in.
For 18 days and 32 hours, the USA Basketball 3x3 Men’s National Team immersed themselves in a training camp to experience one of the most intense practice regimens in the world in preparation for the Men's 3x3 basketball qualifiers in Graz, Austria. This event will decide whether USA Basketball, which starts its action against Lithuania and South Korea on May 27, is punching its ticket to this summer’s global showcase in Japan where 3x3 makes its debut on the biggest stage of all.
At Red Bull 3X House, I saw countless drops of sweat as these athletes practiced hundreds of shots to perfect their game on a custom-built court made to resemble the same courts they'll compete on in Austria. Four teammates, Canyon Barry, Robbie Hummel, Dominique Jones, and Kareem Maddox, came together with the common goal of proving they’re the best 3x3 group in the world and it all starts with the art of the shot. As part of their training, one of the best shooters in the game, Chris Matthews - aka Lethal Shooter, stopped by to help these four hopefuls tighten up and prep for the next stage of competition.
“I’ve played 5-on-5 for however many years, and I think one game of 3-on-3 is way more cardio-intensive than a 5-on-5 game,” Canyon Barry remarks on the intensity of the game. “It’s 10 minutes long, and you’re playing potentially two or three of them in a day. You have to be in great shape, recover quickly, and it’s just continuous action. You can’t take a break jogging up and down the court or take a break for media time-outs. It’s just a constant battle with fatigue to try to play your best.”
The 3x3 team had everything they needed inside the specially designed Red Bull 3X House that was created to be the ultimate home facility by taking a 360-degree approach to fitness, health, and wellness; giving the players access to everything they needed including top-notch coaching and state of the art training with industry vets like Lethal Shooter.
“I was able to play 3x3 with some of these guys and I didn’t realize how hard this game is," Lethal says. "I think a lot of people need to understand that 3X is no joke. This is why it’s going to explode this summer in popularity. People are going to realize how competitive this game is. It’s much harder than 5-on-5. I feel like preparing for 3X you’ve gotta be in the best shape of your life. You’ve gotta get a lot of rest. This is a sport where you can’t get any days off working towards your craft, because you can be exposed if you’re not prepared because they will go after the weak link.”
Lethal Shooter is no stranger to high performance and has helped professional players for many years, but this was his very first time inside the Red Bull 3X House to host a private training camp. While a 3X competitor isn’t the usual 5-on-5 athlete Lethal is used to training with, the art of shooting remains the same. There are aspects that remain fundamentally identical to 5-on-5.
“In 3X, just like in 5’s, the most important shot is the corner three,” he said. “We went over the corner three, we went over the curls. The one thing I can say about this team, they’re very good shooters and they’re very good at picking up things. We just went over the simple things and the small adjustments that could potentially help them win it all this summer for USA Basketball.”
Lethal Shooter’s lessons are something Kareem Maddox has genuinely appreciated learning, such as working on the little things to improve consistency and sharpen details to win the chip.
“I’ve learned a lot of good things from Lethal Shooter,” Maddox said. “It’s a little late in the process to restructure a whole shot, but he’s very cognizant too of that. He’s not trying to change my shot, he’s showing me little things that can be done to help, small tweaks to the mechanics of my shot that already exist.”
The daily routine inside of the Red Bull 3X House is the definition of routine in its truest form. It’s repetitive, but ideal for building habits that get the players prepared for a real game in real-time. The ability to go to work starts right when the players get outside and step through that tunnel of truth. This was a real work-from-home situation.
“We usually wake up at 7:30-8:00 in the morning and get breakfast,” Canyon Barry said. “Then we start our pre-practice treatments, get everything ready to go, get your body feeling good and head onto the court, then have an hour and a half practice session…We’ll get lunch and kind of relax for a couple of hours. Then we’re back out to individual workouts, shooting, ball-handling, a get-what-you-need type thing with Coach Joe [Lewandowski]. Then in the evening we like to watch film, scout the opponents, watch practices, and prepare the best we can for Austria.”
These 18 days were a very critical period for the 3x3 team. One where they built continuity, chemistry, and practiced smart.
“Usually during practice we’ll go through segments called Basketball IQ where we try to rep a bunch of shots that we get in game,” Canyon Barry said. “In the individual workouts it’s catered more towards what you need. Some days you’ll put up 300-500 shots during those. It’s been a good balance. We’ve been trying to find a good balance of preparing and staying ready to play without overdoing it and giving ourselves time to heal before the select team guys get here and we start going hard in scrimmages.”
Perhaps the hardest thing throughout the entire journey isn’t the training before the qualifiers, but the extra year of staying ready due to COVID delays. Each player has spent the last year uncertain if they would play at all this summer, but staying ready was the name of the game and they each did just that.
“It’s been really hard,” Kareem Maddox said. “I’ve been saying that everyone was reading the same news. Meaning, no one knew what was going to happen. Training was difficult through much of last year, especially when courts were boarded up and gyms were closed. It was about finding places where there was an open court and going there for a couple weeks. The whole time we had to be cognizant of not wanting to get sick or getting other people sick. You had to ask tough questions sometimes.”
And then there’s the competitive landscape of 3x3 basketball globally and where the USA sits. “In the United States we were behind the curve in 3x3,” Canyon Barry said. “I think those eastern European countries like Serbia have been dominating the scene for so long. It’s not like 5-on-5 where America has been literally the gold standard. We definitely had some catching up to do and had to learn the art of 3x3 by playing, studying, and watching those European countries. We’ve been able to develop our own strategy and see what works for us. At the end of the day, all you can do is go out there, play your hardest, and execute the game plan.”
Many dominoes had to fall in a particular way for these athletes to be in the exact position they’re in right now. Parents had to sacrifice thousands of hours and dollars. USA Basketball and Red Bull put in otherworldly resources. Everything these athletes have gone through in their lives has culminated in this moment. The moment to win and be the most famous 3x3 team on the planet with the help of an all-star training group.
“No one I know forgets the way they got to where they are and no one has done it alone,” Kareem Maddox said. “I think that being successful at the level we’re trying to be successful at would mean something to them…it's all small pieces to the greater puzzle, which is making sure our team is peaking at the same time and leveraging the opportunities set before us.”