Cierra Burdick seeks spot on 3×3 Olympic team

Maria M. Cornelius2MCsports

Former Lady Vol Cierra Burdick is an Olympic hopeful in a fast-paced version of a sport she’s played most of her life all over the world.

The now 30-year-old Burdick played as a freshman on Pat Summitt’s final team in 2011-12 and graduated from Tennessee in 2015 as a prestigious Torchbearer honoree with multiple SEC tourney or regular season titles and three appearances in the Elite Eight in the NCAA tourney before embarking on a basketball journey that has put her in at least three dozen countries with the passport stamps to prove it.

The native of Charlotte, North Carolina, is in Springfield, Massachusetts, today, April 24, for the final day of the FIBA 3×3 Women’s Series Springfield. The series is significant because it came at the end of USA Basketball’s training camp for the 2024 USA 3×3 Women’s National Team that will play in the Paris Olympics in July.

The sport of 3×3 basketball is fast, physical and exhausting with nearly non-stop game action and no sideline coaches. It is popular in Europe and Asia and gaining traction in the United States. While the Springfield event is being played indoors, a lot of international championships are on outdoor courts.

“In Europe, it’s a pretty big sport and people are packing out venues to watch it,” Burdick said in a phone interview with Knox TN Today from Massachusetts. “And the same in Asia, it’s really growing and becoming a thing. Hopefully we can get the same type of viewership and the same type of eyeballs on the game in the States as it continues to be an Olympic sport and as more and more people find out about it.”

Cierra Burdick competes for USA Basketball in a FIBA event in 2022. (USA Basketball)

Burdick was one of eight players left Sunday from a 17-player U.S. training camp pool. The two four-member teams will finish the international competition today at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. The players are being evaluated in live game action by the USA women’s basketball selection committee, which will choose the four members of the U.S. Olympic team before the end of May.

Burdick’s team includes Hailey Van Lith, who played at Louisville and LSU and has one more year of college eligibility; Lexie Hull, who played at Stanford and is now in the WNBA with the Indiana Fever; and Rhyne Howard, an SEC player of the year at Kentucky and now an All-Star in the WNBA for the Atlanta Dream.

Pool play for the FIBA 3×3 Women’s Series Springfield started Tuesday evening, and Burdick’s team played three games with wins over Calgary, France and Freiburg in a three-hour timespan with short breaks and uniform changes in between games.

The finals start this morning at 10:30 a.m. and can be watched HERE on YouTube. (Scroll to FIBA 3×3 Women’s Series Springfield Finals link).

Cierra Burdick sets a screen for a teammate during USA Basketball 3×3 training camp. (USA Basketball)

The rules for 3×3 are relatively simple and understandable, especially for anyone who played recreational or neighborhood hoops: Half-court with a 10-minute game clock and 12-second shot clock. After a made shot, which is worth one point, defensive rebound or steal, the opponent must clear the ball behind the arc before taking its shot. Made shots behind the arc are worth two points.

The clock only stops for foul calls or a ball out of bounds, and play resumes very quickly. The first team to score 21 points via 1-pointer field goals or 2-pointers behind the arc wins. If time expires, the team leading wins.

“It’s a 10-minute sprint, and there’s not a lot of time or room for error,” Burdick said. “It’s not like there’s a halftime where you can take a break, reset, make adjustments.”

While the goal is always to win a FIBA event, the primary purpose for the players is to make a case for being included on the Olympic team.

“We want to do well in the tournament, but we also want to show the committee what we’re capable of doing and then it’s up to the committee to piece together the best four to give the U.S. the best chance of winning the gold medal in the Olympics,” Burdick said.

Burdick first got a call from USA Basketball 3×3 in 2014 while still at Tennessee. The sport was in its infancy then, and Burdick took to it quickly, found success, became a regular at international events and won the 2023 FIBA 3×3 Women’s World Cup championship in Vienna, Austria, with Van Lith.

She still plays the traditional 5×5 version of basketball at various overseas locations and spent last winter in France for Basketball Landes. Burdick somehow found time to take a trip to Tennessee in February for Lady Vols alumni night.

Candace Parker, Cierra Burdick and Meighan Simmons are introduced at alumni night Feb. 15, 2024. (UT Athletics)

Burdick had to get another passport book – and paid for one with extra pages – and she’s halfway through it already. Her country list also includes Italy, Israel, Russia, Poland, Spain, Hungary, Austria, Russia, Mongolia, Canada and Lithuania to name a few.

While she is very familiar with France already, Burdick would welcome the opportunity to be in Paris in July as a U.S. Olympian.

“I can’t even say that that will be a dream come true, because that’s like beyond dreams,” Burdick said. “I never thought that I would have the opportunity to represent the U.S. in the Olympics because that 12-[player] roster for five on five is the best of the best, the superstars. I think I’m a good basketball player, but I know I’m not A’ja Wilson and Diana Taurasi and Chelsea Gray.

“I played my time in the W, but I wasn’t one of those players that was starting and getting consistent minutes and putting up consistent stats. I’m very realistic with who I am as a player, and I never thought that me making the Olympic team was even a possibility until 3×3 came along.”

If anyone deserves that shot, it’s Burdick.

Maria M. Cornelius, a writer/editor at MoxCar Marketing + Communications since 2013, started her journalism career at the Knoxville News Sentinel and began writing about the Lady Vols in 1998. In 2016, she published her first book, “The Final Season: The Perseverance of Pat Summitt,” through The University of Tennessee Press.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *