Lucas: Iverson embraces new basketball venture

BY MIKE LUCAS
Senior Writer UWBadgers.com

MADISON, Wis. – Whether it was developing an appetite for 3×3 basketball or starting his own clothing line, Khalil Iverson was more than willing to strike up a conversation about his future. It went beyond chatter. Something that has not always been the case in the past with the reluctant Iverson.

“In college, I was more reserved,” admitted the former Wisconsin winger whose loudest statements have been explosive dunks in his four competitive seasons, spanning 135 career games. know the word, but more talkative and outgoing with people.’

The other day, Iverson was speaking from his hotel room in France, the first leg of an international excursion for USA Basketball culminating with the upcoming FIBA ​​3×3 World Cup in Antwerp, Belgium. The group matches will begin on June 21 with matches against Austria and Slovenia.

While armed with a valuable bit of experience and still new to the 3×3 sport, Iverson cited an overarching motivation: “At the end of the day, if I’m doing well and continuing to be successful in sport, I would really like to be able to play in the Olympics and bring back a medal.

There are many steps before reaching that ultimate goal, the Paris 2024 Olympics. But donning an American jersey for the first time, Iverson said: “It’s really something you dream of. The simple fact of getting a call to go to training camp – and having a chance to be on that team to start with – is a great feeling.’”


USA Basketball is growing the game and the talent pool by fielding multiple 3×3 National Teams into which individuals will be evaluated and accrue points. CEO Jim Tooley explained, “We’re trying to grow the ecosystem to bring more players into the 3×3 pipeline, if you will.”

Iverson’s only previous exposure was at the Red Bull 3X Nationals in May (Springfield, Mass.).

“My agent asked me if I would be interested in doing a 3-on-3 trial, the Red Bull session, and I went and enjoyed it,” said Iverson, 24, who went on to elaborate. some of the differences with 5-on-5 hoops beyond playing on a half court. “It’s definitely faster and quite physical too.

“There’s a 12-second shot clock (and a 10-minute game clock with the first team at 21 winning points) so you have to get into your action and shoot pretty quickly. Rebounding and physics are demanding on your body. You could be there for a minute and be dead tired.

“So you basically want to replace every dead ball so you can have new legs in there.”

Two 3×3 veterans join Iverson on the FIBA ​​World Cup squad: 5-9 Dominque Jones, who played at Fort Hays State and with the Harlem Globetrotters and won a gold medal at the 2019 Pan Am Games; and 6-1 Kidani Brutus, another New Yorker from Harlem, and Manhattan College.

The American team in Belgium is rounded out 6-2 by James Parrott, the other newcomer to the 3×3 sport. Parrott, a native of Omaha, Neb., played at Midland and Bellevue University and also toured with the Globetrotters. Parrott, like Iverson, appeared in only one 3X tournament.

 

As for what Iverson, a powerful 6-5 jumper, brings to the sport, he said: “I really feel like I have an edge because of my athleticism – rebounding and attacking the dribble. At the same time , by being physical, I’m able to keep just about anyone on the court.

That was one of Iverson’s strengths with the Badgers, the ability to keep point or block. After coming off the bench his first two seasons, he started 66 consecutive games his last two years. As a senior, he was a key cog in the Big Ten’s No. 1 ranked defensive unit (60.3 points per game in the league).

“Khalil Iverson can keep one to five,” observed college basketball analyst Robbie Hummel, a former Purdue star. “He’s a terrific athlete and he’s embraced his role as a great defender. I don’t think he gets enough credit for being the type of defender that really impacts the game.”

Hummel made his comments in early March 2019. Iverson was on a roll. He had his first two career double-doubles in each of the final two regular season games against Iowa and Ohio State. And he’s scored in double digits in 7 of the last 9, averaging 12 points, 7 rebounds, while shooting over 60%.

If anyone can relate to Iverson’s 3×3 baptism, it’s Hummel who made a smooth transition to the sport himself. Hummel was named MVP of the FIBA ​​3×3 World Cup 2019 in Amsterdam. He led the Americans to a gold medal. Unfortunately, Team USA failed to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

After earning his sociology degree at UW, Iverson played a year in the NBA G-League with Grand Rapids (Mich.) Drive, then an affiliate of the Detroit Pistons. Last season, Iverson was a productive starter for Lahti basketball club in Finland’s top league.

Along with averaging 14 points and 7 rebounds, he had 50 steals and 28 blocks in 20 games. Iverson has scored 20 or more points in five of his last eight appearances, including back-to-back double-doubles to end the season. It was all reminiscent of his stretch run during his senior year at Wisconsin.

“I definitely got into my stride being one of the main guys,” Iverson said. “At first it was new to me. The game itself. Playing overseas. It was new; it was different from playing in the G League where it was more about guys playing basketball in tete-a-tete. That’s how I felt anyway.

“It was almost like Wisconsin (the Badger system) in terms of moving the ball and trying to get the best shots. Things like that. two sides of the court. It was the exact same thing (as a UW senior). I just perfected myself. And I really focused.”

As for adapting to a different country, he added, “Finland is a bit like Wisconsin in terms of weather. Lots of snow. Quite cold. Days are a bit longer. It would get dark so fast I’m super picky about everything I eat. After about two weeks, I was able to regularly go out and buy things I knew I liked.

“Finland was a different culture. But I took my schedule and stuck to it.”

Iverson felt like he had grown up over the past year. Just like he had done the year before. The COVID year. Outside of basketball and between gigs in Grand Rapids and Lahti, he returned to his home in Delaware, Ohio. He loved being with his family again. His mother Tracey. His older brother Kevin Jr. His sister Kourtnie.

From this meeting sprouted inspiration – Iverson’s clothing line, Thoroughbred Clothing.

“My brother helped me come up with this whole idea – it was just something I wanted to do,” Iverson said. “I’m a relaxed type. So we have sweatpants, sweatshorts, t-shirts, hats, flip flops, hoodies, all these types of clothes… Now I’m trying just to further develop my brand.”

Regarding the Thoroughbred designation, he explained: “We have different slogans for our shirts. One of the slogans was ‘Different Breed’. Like a thoroughbred. Different breed. Like a different breed of horse. Or a different breed of horse. specific, I guess you could say. Different from the others. Stronger, faster.

“I see myself being different from everyone else just in terms of the things I like and the things I do in my spare time. Whenever I hang out with teammates, they always ask me, ‘Why are you doing this or that?’ So, that clicked. Also, my high school mascot was a horse (a Pacer).”

Iverson has come a long way since Hayes High School in Delaware. (His father, Kevin Iverson, Sr. died of a heart attack in November of Khalil’s senior year. He was just 43.) Right now his focus is on mastering 3×3 basketball in to the extent that he can help the American team win a medal in Belgium.

“While I’m doing this, I want to give it my all and take it as seriously as if it were 5v5 – like everything I do, I want to try to get the best out of it,” Iverson said. , who is unsure of his future plans. He would like to explore the world more. He hasn’t ruled out the NBA yet, either.

“It will always be something that I wish I could do,” he said. “Because it’s always been a goal of mine to play in the NBA, if I could say I checked that off my list, that would be amazing. Right now, I love every moment and every memory I create. and I’m just trying to create more.”

Like his unforgettable reverse dunk against Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament held on the most famous hoop stage of all, Madison Square Garden. Iverson caught the ball over his head on a lob from Brad Davisonone of many former UW teammates he still talks to.

Davison, Alem Ford, D’Mitrik TriceBrevin Pritzl, Ethan Happ and Carter Higginbottom all discovered the same thing, too. He is more talkative and outgoing than ever.

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