Having never been a part of USA Basketball, Aleah Goodman didn’t quite know what to expect when she was invited to take part at the USA Basketball 3X3 Nationals back in April in Las Vegas.
As she was discussing the trip with her dad, they conclusion they came to was for Goodman to simply have fun, take advantage of the opportunity and see where it might take her.
It turned out that trips to China, Italy, Russia and France were in her future, all happening in the past couple months.
Fortunately, she has a page or two left in her passport because Goodman, who will be a junior for the Oregon State women’s basketball team this season, has at least one more overseas trip on the horizon — when the Beavers head to Italy for three exhibition games later this month.
College teams are allowed to take international trips once every four years. The Beavers also went to Italy in the summer of 2015.
Having never played 3 on 3 basketball, Goodman was excited for the opportunity to try something new. She and OSU teammate Destiny Slocum made the trip to Las Vegas as two of eight individuals that would form two teams to compete against some of the top college teams.
Goodman felt like she had played well and showed what she is capable of on the court, but didn’t really expect much to come of it even though she was told they would call her if they wanted her to play in some tournaments.
A couple weeks later, she her phone rang and the opportunity of a lifetime presented itself.
“I was like, wow, yeah. Of course,” she said Thursday afternoon just before the Beavers took the court for their second practice in preparation for Italy. “Then it was like, OK we’re going to China next week. That’s when the shock kind of hit. I was like, oh my gosh this is crazy.”
Goodman played in four tournaments over the next couple months. Following the trip to Chengdu, China for the tournament, which was held May 31-June 1, she went to Turin, Italy (June 14-15), Ekaterinburg, Russia (July 9-10) and finally Voiron, France (Aug. 1-2).
Goodman said it was special when she realized she was competing for her country.
“I took a picture of my jersey and I sent it to my parents and that was crazy,” she said. “First game I took it off and it says USA across the chest. It’s definitely kind of a surreal moment. … To be in that moment was like, wow, it was just an awesome experience.”
Goodman was one of six players who was asked to be in the pool for tournaments this summer. She played with Connecticut’s Christyn Williams in all four events, Princeton’s Bella Alarie in all but France, Texas' Charli Collier in all but Russia, UCLA’s Michaela Onyenwere in Russia and Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu in France.
Her teams placed third (Italy), fourth (Russia), fifth (France) and sixth (China).
“It’s difficult because we don’t play together, we all come from very different teams who play different styles and we don’t have a coach with us,” Goodman said, noting they just had a chaperone and played against teams that consisted of professionals players.
She said they typically spent the three pool play games learning and finding “little tricks” to take into tournament play. Three of the four pool teams advanced.
Goodman made sure to take advantage of the opportunity to play with different players and soak in their approaches to the game. She learned something from each one.
“It helped me a lot kind of getting thrown in with new people I’ve never played with because it made me have to figure out how to play with them quicker,” she said.
One thing she realized was that even as a point guard — there aren’t really set positions in 3 on 3 she said — that she must stay involved in each play.
“I learned how important it is to move off the ball and I need to be moving constantly and that’s something that I think is one of my weaknesses, is often I will give it up and catch myself kind of watching,” Goodman said. “I need to move, I need to cut so that’s something I really learned.”
While Goodman has known Ionescu for many years, it was the first time they had played together. Putting the college rivalry aside, Goodman said she enjoyed playing with the two-time reigning Pac-12 player of the year.
“She sees the floor amazing and just brings a level of mind and coaching. ... I probably learned the most from playing with her just in the way she sees the game and sees the floor and just kind of being able to bounce ideas off her was really fun for me,” Goodman said.
For someone who had only visited Mexico and Canada outside of the United States, all the travel was quite new for Goodman. The travel was long and exhausting at times.
And for a bit of a picky eater, it was an adventure at times in that regard.
"There were definitely some places where I was like I don’t know what to eat," she said. "So it was good for me because I had to branch out and try new things."
In the end, it was an experience she wouldn’t change, and she might have another tournament or two in September, if the U.S. is invited and she is wanted or needed.
But for now, Goodman is happy to be back in Corvallis, playing with her old teammates and getting accustomed to the newcomers to the Beavers program.
Although, Goodman admits she wasn’t really looking forward to the trip to Italy as much as she would have thought until she got a pick-me-up from Ionescu.
“She was like be excited for this because these 10 days with your team is a blast,” Goodman said of the advice Ionescu gave her. “You get to see so much more. She was like yeah the traveling does kind of suck but you are with your teammates so it makes it a lot more fun and easier. She said definitely look forward to it. She changed my whole mindset.”