TORONTO, Ont. (Sept. 15, 2022) - Roughly 24 hours before boarding a flight to Constanta, Romania, the No. 1 women’s 3x3 player in the world was beginning a five-hour drive to Lethbridge, Alberta. Michelle Plouffe learned she had moved into the top spot of her sport via the Team Canada 3x3 group chat she shares with her twin sister Katherine and their teammates, Paige Crozon and Kacie Bosch.
The sisters were headed to Lethbridge to meet up with Crozon and Bosch to get in a pair of practice sessions before their flight to Constanta for this weekend’s FIBA 3x3 Women’s Series Final. Canada enters the final weekend of action as the top ranked team in the Women’s Series, following an undefeated showing at the Montreal stop on Sept. 4.
Plouffe has dominated at each stop Canada has participated in this season. In addition to being the women’s 3x3 leading scorer, Plouffe is also the leader in highlights, blocks, made two-point shots and key assists. Her all-around game has propelled Canada up the leaderboards as she’s become one of the most dominant players in 3x3 basketball.
“It’s pretty cool,'' Plouffe said while laughing from the passenger seat during the aforementioned road trip. “I definitely didn’t envision this being a thing when I started. It wasn’t something I was aiming for, my goals have always been around the team and getting to the next qualifier or win or tournament, making it to the Final, but yeah. It’s cool to have a milestone like this along the way. Obviously I couldn’t have achieved that without my team for sure. It's a credit to them and I’m just grateful for them.”
They’re equally grateful for her.
“Michelle is absolutely incredible,” Bosch said. “She’s such a smart player. I’m always just like, blown away by how she’s able to use her own skill and then also how he’s able to know when to set up a teammate. I’m always just wowed by her.”
When the news broke about Plouffe taking the top spot, the group chat was active with congratulations for Plouffe, as well as for Crozon who is now ranked third overall. With the Final just days away, the entire team enters the weekend on a high.
“It’s kind of a testament to the consistency that our team has had throughout the summer,” Plouffe said. “We’ve put a lot of time in this summer. Paige and Kacie have done four-back-to-back-to-back tournaments. We’re all very committed to what this team is trying to achieve. It’s great having Canada Basketball on board, helping us to achieve the goals of qualifying for the next Olympics in 20204. We all have the same goal and we’re all super passionate about this sport.”
Getting to watch Canada celebrate 3x3 this past summer at the inaugural GLOBL Jam showcase, alongside tournaments for U23 men and women was a cool moment for Plouffe. After starting the team in 2019, Plouffe, sister Katherine, and Crozon have played together for three years, weathering a pandemic just as the team was beginning to get started. Along the way, their success has helped bring awareness to the sport. Canada hosted three Women’s Series stops this season, further contributing to people being able to watch Plouffe and the team on their quest.
“We love it,” Plouffe said. “We love playing with each other and we’re hoping the sport [continues to] grow in Canada. We’ve seen it come a long way, obviously, [during] Global Jam, and people are watching in Canada now. We’ve had people approach us on the street saying they watched us and oh my gosh, that is so heartwarming.”
Plouffe is especially passionate about growing the sport when it comes to young girls who are watching and wondering if there is a space for them.
“I think once they play it, they’ll realize how fun it is,” she said. “It is intimidating to start because there’s only three of you on the court. You can’t hide anywhere, you can’t just spot up in the corner, you have to be able to do everything, but it’s just a lot of fun. I think it’s great for girls especially, but obviously for all youth to play just because you get the camaraderie of a team, the competitiveness, but also the fun, which I think is important for kids who play basketball.”
The intimidation factor of 3x3 is part of what made the game so appealing to Plouffe. The intensity and pace, not to mention the physicality, are all trademarks of 3x3, but the mental edge needed to succeed intrigued Plouffe. She enjoyed having to learn how to adapt and adjust the game plan on the fly.
Without a coach on court, the team coaches themselves. Whatever happens on court, good or bad, it’s on the players. Factor in the intense travel, flying, literally, across the globe for a weekend stop, and it only makes each game and possession matter more.
“It really does matter who is on the court with you because if one person's off or if you're not clicking, it makes a third of the difference,” Plouffe said. “It just makes a big difference. It's crazy travel [too]. You're flying to Europe for two days and then coming back, so you have to be tuned in and everyone has to be on the same page on a lot of things.”
The chemistry of Team Canada gets brought up at every stop they participate in. While the team is locked in on-court, they are equally tight away from it, choosing to spend their off days together exploring whichever city they’re in.
“It's been cool getting to do that with both Paige and Kacie and obviously, my sister,” Plouffe said. “It's just been a great dynamic and we're just so respectful of each other and we value each other's opinions and what they have to say and what they're feeling about stuff. I think we just have a great mutual respect for each other goes a long way.”
Plouffe is quick to turn the conversation back to her teammates when her own success is brought up, but it’s obvious she appreciates the love she has been shown since taking over the No. 1 spot.
“I just want to thank everyone for, you know, their support,” she said. “It goes a long way, especially in our humble beginnings of trying to build a team and maintain it and make things happen. We had an outpouring of support and encouragement from, like, other countries' players too. It really makes a difference when we get that.
“I'm just super grateful,” she continued. “I feel super blessed to be able to do this with people who are now my best friends.”