Former NBA power forward Jerome “Junk Yard Dog” Williams extended his career by shifting from 5-on-5 to 3-on-3.
It’s time to help young players start theirs.
Williams, who played for four teams during nine NBA seasons, is the president of The Young3 — the youth initiative connected to recording artist Ice Cube, and his Big3 professional 3-on-3 basketball league, for which Williams played during its inaugural season in 2017.
On Saturday morning, the Young3 made its way to the Bill and Lillie Heinrich YMCA for 3-on-3 tournaments featuring kids ranging from third to eighth grade who play in Vegas Elite’s club basketball program.
“With the Big3, I feel like (3-on-3) is really starting to grow in popularity,” Vegas Elite program director Brian Sitter said. “And, it’s a great way for kids to learn how to play the game. There’s more space. They get to do more…It’s a great thing for development.”
Williams, who played in the NBA from 1996-2005, lives in the Las Vegas Valley and was Findlay Prep’s head coach in 2014-15. He returned to professional basketball via the Big3, and was asked this year to spearhead the Young3 in cultivating the 3-on-3 game, which was added to the Olympics in 2017.
The organization “looks to not only advance 3-on-3 basketball in each of the local communites they visit, but they want to enrich a child’s experience with the game of basketball.
“It’s directly transferrable to 5-on-5. It helps kids to play 3-on-3,” Williams said. “And that’s what we used to play as pros. In practice, we’d play 3-on-3.”
Williams’ son plays for Vegas Elite, making the organization was a natural partner for Saturday’s event. The players deviated from traditional 5-on-5 during the week and practiced 3-on-3 in preparation for the tournaments.
“It’s a different skill-set. You have to have all the skills, and your basketball IQ gets developed,” Williams said. “You have to think the game. Where is the spacing on the floor. You have to think fast.”