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Philly players shine on opening day of 3X3U National Championship

04/02/2021, 10:30pm EDT
By Josh Verlin

Three basketball players stand smiling at the camera

From left to right: Devon Goodman (Penn), Ryan Daly (St. Joe's) and Justin Jaworski (Lafayette) at the 2021 3X3U Championship. (Photo courtesy Ryan Daly)

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

Justin Jaworski and Devon Goodman have experienced winning multiple games on the same day before, courtesy of the AAU world and offseason high school events. Tossing piles of money in the air afterwards, though, was a new experience.

“I keep forgetting that we’re playing for money,” Jaworski said by phone Friday evening from Indianapolis, where he’s playing in the third-ever 3X3U National Championship. “Everybody’s out there competing, trying to put their name on the map, and then I remember when we’re heading back to the hotel, ‘hey I just made $1000 today,’ so it’s pretty cool.”

Okay, so the piles of money each winning team played around with for the camera at the end of each 10-minute game aren’t real, but each win in the event — a 3-on-3 tournament featuring 16 teams each made up of four players from a pair of conferences — nets the team $1000 split between its four members. Four wins on Friday for the Wicked Smahts netted them each a grand, their first-ever professional paycheck.

Jaworski and Goodman are half of the Ivy League/Patriot League team, which goes by the nickname The Wicked Smahts; Navy alum Cam Davis and Army West Point grad Alex King round out the roster. 

The 3X3U format is simple: 16 teams split into two pools, which play a single-game round-robin over the first two days of competition. After that is a single-elimination bracket (with byes for the better teams through pool play) to determine a winner.

The Wicked Smahts were the only team Pool A to not drop a game Friday, but there’s work to do to come home with the tournament’s $50,000 grand prize. They’ll play the other three teams in Pool A on Saturday (watch here on Twitter; schedule found here), with all 16 teams entering bracket play Sunday. If Wicked Smaht finishes in the top two in its pool, it has an automatic spot in the 3X3U quarterfinals.

They finished off their unbeaten day with a win over an Atlantic 10/Big East squad, ‘Beast Coast Ballers,’ which features former Archbishop Carroll and St. Joe’s standout Ryan Daly. The Beast Coast Ballers finished their day 1-3, which was still enough to earn Daly his first $250 playing professional basketball.

“I never thought I’d be in this tournament or even making money playing basketball five years ago,“ said Daly, who’s playing with Marcus Evans (VCU), Matt Moyer (George Washington) and Sacar Anim (Marquette). “I need the $250, I’m happy about $250. If I don’t win again, it’s still worth it — I’m a broke college kid right now.”

Jaworski, who scored 1,484 points during his career at Lafayette, has been the best scorer in the 3X3U tournament thus far. Each game only lasts 10 minutes or until one team scores 21 points, utilizing a scoring system where foul shots and shots inside the arc count for one point and typically 3-points are worth two. Jaworski’s the only player in Pool A to average double figures (10.3 ppg), shooting 16-of-37 (43.2%) from beyond the arc. 

A 6-3, 195-pound shooting guard, Jaworski averaged 21.5 ppg in 15 games this year for Lafayette, hitting 39 percent of his 3-pointers and 91 percent from the line. 

“It’s great to play with him instead of chasing him around the court,” said Goodman, who went 2-1 in his career against the Leopards but saw Jaworski burn the Quakers for 20 points and six assists in a Nov. ‘19 Lafayette win.

Unlike his teammates, Goodman finished his college career in 2020, but the event organizers invited a number of players who didn’t get a chance to participate last year. A 6-0 point guard out of Germantown Academy, Goodman played in 107 games for Penn (59 starts), averaging 13.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg and 2.7 apg between his junior and senior years.

Jaworski’s play didn’t go unnoticed by a broadcast team that wasn’t too familiar with most of the players before the event but certainly found their favorites early on, with well-known former Ohio State walk-on and media personality Mark Titus calling Jaworski the best guard in the event at one point during the afternoon.

For the Perkiomen Valley grad, who led the Vikings to a massive upset over Roman Catholic in the 2017 PIAA 6A tournament before giving eventual state champs Reading all it could handle in a 52-50 loss, it was rewarding enough to play against high-level talent from around the country and more than hold his own yet again.

“It’s what I’ve been looking for my whole basketball career,” Jaworski said. “Didn’t get recruited out of high school, some professional buzz but nothing crazy coming out of college. That’s been my whole life, so it’s cool to finally get the recognition I feel like I deserve.”

Daly, Goodman and Jaworski aren’t the only players with local ties participating in this year’s event. Neumann-Goretti alum Zane Martin (Towson) is playing on the CAA/NEC squad, Downingtown West’s Ryan Betley (Penn/Cal) is on the Pac-12/WCC team, Life Center (N.J.)’s Malik Ellison (Hartford) is on the America East/MAAC squad with Northeastern York (Pa.) product Kobi Nwandu (Niagara), and Temple alum Nate Pierre-Louis is part of the AAC/C-USA foursome.

There’s plenty of all-league performers and future professional ballplayers in the event, but The Wicked Smahts crew was feeling ultra-confident after their first 3-on-3 experience.

“Honestly, we were talking about it when we had a practice on Thursday, saying ‘nobody thinks we’re going to win any games,’” Jaworski said. “People looking at us coming from the smaller conferences, we have three guards under 6-3, I think everybody was looking at us like we’re not going to do much, so we wanted to prove everybody wrong. 

“I think we’re on the map for everybody now.”

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