The International Olympic Committee’s decision to add men’s and women’s 3×3 basketball as part of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo represents a slam dunk for Karim Souchu, the French 3×3 coach who has taken up residence in Roswell.
Mr. Souchu was a member of the original French national 3×3 team in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA)’s first world championship held in Athens, Greece, in 2012.
His team won the silver medal there. Since then he became a member of the coaching staff and helped garner medals for the team in a sport that has been called “global, urban and a show.”
In his announcement of the sport’s inclusion in the Tokyo Games, IOC President Thomas Bach said, “I am delighted that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will be more youthful, more urban and will include more women.”
Mr. Souchu told Global Atlanta in an interview at his Roswell residence that “They do it everywhere around the world.”
But what is 3×3 basketball exactly?
Over the past decade as the sport emerged across Europe and Asia its rules have been codified into a worldwide network by the FIBA, which launched both its world tour and hosted its first world cup, featuring men’s and women’s teams in Athens five years ago.
Each match lasts a maximum of 10 minutes, with a 12-second shot clock and each national team is comprised of four players (three starters and a sub). It is played on half a court with only one hoop. There is no halftime, and no quarters or no time-outs. The winning team is the first to make 21 points or has the most points after 10 minutes.
At the Olympics the 3×3 format will feature eight men’s and eight women’s teams composed of full-time 3×3 ballers. And, yes, there is a new ball especially developed for the game.
Mr. Souchu recalled how 3×3 requires “quick decision making.” Its fast pace appeals to youths, he added, not to mention that the games generally are accompanied by non-stop music, disc jockeys and break-dancers.
“When you go back to 5×5, you are much better. With the 12 second shot clock instead of 24 you’re always on the move. It’s very intense, there’s a lot of quick decision making, it’s a whole different game,” he added. “In 10 minutes you have to take the initiative. You can’t be shy. In 5×5 you can hide, in 3×3 you can’t hide. It’s very good for kids to develop that.”
At 38 years old, Mr. Souchu has had to step off the court professionally, but he’s still attached to the game including the new 3×3 game where he remains a coach for the French team.
The son of a Senegalese father and French mother, he always was the tallest in his class, usually as tall as his teachers. He started his basketball career in France when he was 15 and was spotted by U.S. recruiters for his potential providing him the opportunity to study at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., with a full scholarship.
Under the coaching at Furman of Larry Davis, who currently is coaching at the University of Cincinnati, he became a 2,000 points scorer and finished 4th all time on the scoring list at the university.
His prowess got him his first professional contract in France on a team that is now owned by San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker, also a Frenchman. For the next decade he played on numerous French professional teams against current National Basketball Association (NBA) players such as Mr. Parker, Boris Diaw, Ronny Turiaf, Rudy Gobert , Evan Fournier, Thabo Sefolosha and others.
He also got to know well local players such as Malcolm Mackey, the Georgia Institute of Technology’s all-time leading rebounder and a member of two Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) teams, since the European teams hired Americans and vice versa.
While at Furman, Mr. Souchu would accompany friends on visits to Atlanta. With his fond memories of the university experience and his visits to the city, he said the decision to move to Atlanta with his family was natural enough and he has managed to maintain his ties to France where he remains the men’s and women’s 3×3 team coach.
Assuming the unofficial title of “ambassador of the French Basketball Federation for 3×3,” he has created his company HOOPZ and owns the HOOPZ Camp, which helps young athletes to develop their skills on and off the courts.
As a coach, he said, he brings a unique cultural perspective having played under great American coaches mixed with his European professional play.
“The cultural mix helped me grow as a player,” he said. “This experience gives me a unique approach of the game of basketball. Indeed, it allows me to take the best of the two cultures.”
As he helps develop France’s 3×3 teams across the Atlantic, he also is interested in working in the Atlanta area in after school programs. He already has a program in Fulton County and is interested in working with high and middle school students in surrounding counties.
Mr. Souchu may be reached by email at email@example.com