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From the village to the world stage

PORT MORESBY - With the announcement that 3x3 basketball will be added to the Olympic Games in 2020, the small Pacific country of Papua New Guinea could one day make it to the world stage.

PNG was represented at the 2016 Rio Olympics by a handful of outstanding individuals but they were not represented in a single team sport. The tides could be turning for this proud and culturally diverse nation.

“It’s wonderful news that the Olympics will be running the 3X3 format in 2020.  The 3x3 style is so different to the traditional 5x5 version and actually gives smaller countries the ability to compete on the biggest stage,” commented Basketball Federation of Papua New Guinea (BFPNG) Executive Officer, Joel Khalu.

“The game is quick and dynamic, but you don’t necessarily need outstanding athletes to be competitive. This is where smaller countries can now compete with your normal powerhouse nations. With only three players in a half court, it takes away the up & down pace. Teams with great shooters can be very difficult to defeat, especially when games are only 10-minutes in length.”

The Basketball Federation of Papua New Guinea (BFPNG) has been rapidly increasing 3x3 activity in country even before the Olympic inclusion was announced. The popularity of 3x3 is growing at a dramatic pace in PNG. Even in the most unlikely of places 3x3 basketball has left its mark.

A small village on the outskirts of Port Moresby, where many of the houses hover on stilts just above the water, a single road leads to the village church and a power pole holds up a hoop.

The village on stilts found just outside Port Moresby

Here, of all places, 3x3 is played day and night, only stopping when a car reclaims the road. Often having to redraw the lines made by pouring water on the ground below, these players test their skills on the dirt court before heading to the city.

Basketball can be found in the most unlikely of places in PNG

After dodging cars and playing in the sand, these players cannot wait for Friday nights when Twilight Hoops gives them a chance to play indoors. 

BFPNG’s Twilight Hoops program is a community initiative aimed to get children off the street and onto the court. The initiative is open to all ages, but participants 16 and over go head-to-head in 3x3 basketball every Friday night.

Children eagerly wait for their turn to hit the court

“The last 6-week block of Twilight Basketball was fantastic. The program overall is certainly having a positive impact on the local community, especially when we are giving almost 400 people the opportunity to participate in free sport on their Friday evenings,” said Khalu.

BFPNG hosted their first Good Friday 3x3 tournament this year. After having such success, BFPNG has now locked in that same time period in 2018 to expand the event to become the PNG 3x3 National Championships.

“Growing the 3x3 game is an integral part of our BFPNG strategic plan. We see this format being a popular way for us to promote the sport and getting increased playing numbers throughout the country.”

With such a focus on the growth of 3x3, PNG would be a nation to keep look out for on the 3x3 landscape in the years to come.

Twilight basketball is made possible by Australian Government funding through the Pacific Sports Partnership Program. BFPNG and their programs are supported by the International Basketball Foundation (IBF).