MIAMI, Florida (November 4, 2022) -- The FIBA 3x3 AmeriCup 2022 tips off in Miami this weekend and Bikramjit Gill is ready.
The 30-year-old Brampton native, along with teammates Alex Johnson, Jordan Jensen-Whyte and Dele Ogundokun will be representing Canada as the third-seeded team of 17 teams battling for the FIBA 3x3 AmeriCup 2022 men's title. In the inaugural FIBA 3x3 AmeriCup in 2021, the Canadian Men finished fifth. This year, they’d like to rework that ending.
“We want the gold,” Gill said. “It’s kind of redemption from last year. I feel like we went out early last year and we kind of folded in the quarterfinals game against Dominican Republic. We owe it to ourselves. We’ve got to do better.”
With the tournament providing the first opportunity for teams to earn valuable ranking points that will be collected until October 31, 2023 to determine who will qualify directly for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games and the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, Team Canada has their eyes on the ultimate prize.
“Obviously, we're trying to finish in the top three,” Gill said. “I don't want to say that we're looking beyond this, but we know what's at stake right now.”
Gill and his teammates are coming off of a bronze medal performance at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. Though they fell short of their ultimate goal of finishing with a gold medal, getting to experience the Commonwealth Games as a whole, as well as finishing the week standing on the podium was an experience that Gill won’t forget.
“It's kind of like a mini-Olympic experience,” Gill said. “It was one of those things where, when we got our name announced, I was just so happy that we medaled. I was just so blessed to be standing at the podium.”
Gill is proud to wear his Canada jersey when he’s playing 3x3. He also knows that by being a Sikh-Canadian professional basketball player, his career is an important representation for the Indian community that he’s proud to represent.
“Growing up, man, I didn't have that example,” Gill said. “There was no Indian guy, like a Sikh Punjabi guy that looked like me [playing basketball]. I want to show them people that look like them. I didn't have that growing up and now little Indian kids are coming up to me and being like, ‘Oh, man, you’re doing this and this.’ I feel proud and I feel like I got to keep going. There’s so much more for me to do. I can't stop here. It's kind of like they motivate me more than I feel like I'm inspiring them. I'm motivated by them.”
After playing basketball at Ball State in Indiana, Gill was introduced to 3x3 when he signed a contract to play in the 3x3 Premier League in Japan. After winning the league in his first season overseas, he then signed on to play 5-on-5, also in Japan, fulfilling a lifelong dream of being a professional [5-on-5] basketball player.
Realizing that the grind of playing in a 3x3 season and then a 5-on-5 season also meant missing out on time back home in Canada with his family, Gill made the decision to concentrate solely on 3x3.
He’s been playing professionally ever since, splitting his time between India where he plays in the 3BL and Brampton, with his family during the offseason.
One of the unique challenges to 3x3 is that national 3x3 teams aren’t together to practice daily, nor even weekly. When Gill and his Team Canada 3x3 teammates get together for a tournament, they may not have seen each other in person since their last tournament. This makes the practice time that they do get – generally a day or two before the event – mean that much more.
With each member of the team scattered across the globe, Gill feels that team chemistry is even more important in 3x3 than 5-on-5 basketball. While Ogundokun will be making his national team 3x3 debut, the bond between Gill, Johnson and Jensen-Whyte deepened during their time together at the Commonwealth Games this summer. Gill expects the chemistry with Ogundokun to develop quickly as well.
“I think it's one of the most important things,” Gill said. “I got to know Dele over the weekend pretty closely. He's a great guy. I love messing around, I love clowning around and I feel like off the court, you need to keep it very loose. We joke around all the time, like 80% of the time we're probably making fun of each other and then telling jokes.”
While the team has plenty of laughs off-court, when the ball goes up, it’s all about playing for the teammate beside you.
“When you're talking about winning, because we have that closeness together, I want to dive on the floor for a loose ball for them,” Gill said “I'll give my soul for these guys, you know? And they know that, too.”