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Van Lith aspires to become a U.S. Olympic 3×3 team

DOUG FEINBERG Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Hailey Van Lith is focused on making the USA Basketball 3×3 Olympic team this summer and isn’t worried about where she will end up in college next year.

Van Lith is currently participating in training camp in Springfield, Massachusetts, and will play in a 3×3 tournament at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame early next week.

The 22-year-old guard, who played at Louisville and LSU, has found success in 3×3 for the USA. She won a gold medal on the U18 team in 2019 and helped win gold at the FIBA ​​3×3 World Cup last year. The Paris Games are the second Olympics to offer 3×3, after the event debuted at the 2021 Games in Tokyo.

“What I remember most is that each game is so unique,” ​​she said of 3×3 play. “The strategy is so different from match to match. You can’t specialize in one thing and make it 3 versus 3 as a player. You have to be able to guard each position for at least a few seconds.”

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Van Lith has a shot at making the Paris Games because two of the four members of the U.S. team must be in America’s top 10 for total points accumulated in the FIBA ​​rankings. Van Lith currently qualifies fifth.

Playing in training camp with so many WNBA players – Dearica Hamby, Allisha Gray and Rhyne Howard – has helped Van Lith improve her game.

“Playing against them and seeing how I can score and not score, I see what I need to get better at,” Van Lith said. “It’s a taste of the competition.”

As for where she’ll play college basketball next year, she says she still hasn’t signed anywhere. Van Lith decided to play one more season in college instead of entering the WNBA draft.

“I visited TCU and was very interested in it, but I also visited other schools and was very interested in it as well,” she told The Associated Press. ‘I haven’t made an official commitment yet, but I’m very close. The ink never hit the paper for any school.”

Van Lith said she has stayed away from social media for the most part since LSU lost to Iowa in the Elite Eight this month. She didn’t even know Haley Cavinder had decided not to play at TCU and return to Miami until Saturday afternoon.

She said Cavinder’s choice would play no role in her decision.

“It’s a non-factor for me,” Van Lith said. “If she had stayed and I had gone to TCU, I would have loved to play with her.”

Van Lith averaged 11.6 points and 3.6 assists in her lone season at LSU, joining the defending NCAA champions for the 2023-2024 season. She has the option for another season because of the extra year the NCAA granted to athletes whose freshman seasons were affected by the pandemic.

She played her first three years at Louisville and led the Cardinals to the Final Four in 2022. Louisville lost in the Elite Eight last year before deciding to transfer to LSU. She was one of the biggest names in the portal last season and is again now.