Prairie basketball players take top spot in Americas

Team Saskatoon won all five games at the FIBA 3x3 World Tour Chicago Masters this past weekend in Chicago.

Team Saskatoon won all five games at the FIBA 3x3 World Tour Chicago Masters

Michael Linklater holds his Team Saskatoon 3x3 jersey. (Madeline Kotzer)

Four basketball players from the prairies have a lot to be proud of.

This past weekend, Team Saskatoon won the title of 'number one in the Americas' for three on three (3x3) basketball.

The team won all five games at the FIBA 3x3 World Tour Chicago Masters on Aug. 15 and 16. In the final match, Saskatoon beat out Denver 18 to 17 for the top spot.

We wanted to do it big this year.- Michael Linklater

Michael Linklater is a member of Team Saskatoon. He is ranked as the top 3x3 player in Canada by the International Basketball Federation’s (FIBA) 3x3 Basketball trackers.

Linklater said the speed of 3x3 basketball attracted Team Saskatoon to the game.

“It is a 12-second shot clock, which is 12 seconds shorter than a regular shot clock in five-on-five basketball, so it is a really fast-paced, exciting game."

Since winning the top spot at the Chicago Masters, Team Saskatoon, comprised of Linklater, Michael Lieffers, Willie Murdaugh and O’neil Gordon, will advance to play for the world’s top spot in Tokyo, Japan, this October.

A speedy trip to the top

Team Saskatoon won $10,000 after beating out Denver. (3x3 FIBA World Tour)

The team has come a long way since they first heard about the global basketball competition two years ago and decided to give it a shot.

In 2013, Linklater and a few former teammates from the University of Saskatchewan Huskies' National Champions formed a 3x3 team and competed in the tournament. The team placed second in the Americas’ Qualifier and ultimately ranked among the top six teams world-wide.

This year, Linklater said his team knew what they were up against. He and Lieffers brought on two new players and trained hard.

“We wanted to do it big this year,” Linklater explained. “We saw that we were right close to getting that win. We went to Edmonton to qualify and that’s how we got our trip to Chicago and we ended up winning.”

Team Saskatoon not only earned the top spot in North America, but also a large cheque for $10,000. It was so big in fact, that the team could not fit it on the plane back home.

Now, the team is focused on world domination.

“We are really confident with our chances. We will continue to stay focused and keep training,” Linklater said. 

Three by three basketball is different from regular basketball, with a 12-second shot clock and only four players to a team, with one sub.