MINNEAPOLIS — A year ago, Mara Braun barely knew that 3x3 basketball was a sport.
"I showed up. I didn't even know the ball was different or anything," remembered Braun, of Team USA's 3x3 basketball trials. "I kinda just went out there and played."
Now, Braun is a world champion. Winning gold with Team USA at the FIBA nations league 3x3 basketball tournament on Friday
"It was like OK, I can take a deep breath and it's all been worth it," she recalled.
That was in Mongolia. An earlier tournament was in China. Including the Gophers team trip to Croatia and Greece, Braun has had a globe-trotting summer.
"Each place has such a different culture," said Braun, a Wayzata High School graduate. "So it's just really cool to be able to experience that. I wouldn't have the opportunities without playing basketball and without playing at the level I do. So just it honestly makes it all worth it. It's cool to be able to travel and also play the sport that I love."
Braun turned down more Team USA competition to get ready for a fast approaching college season, one she feels more confident for because of 3x3.
"It's a lot faster and being able to get shots off quick," said Braun. "Coach P (Plitzuweit) is all about every possession we need to get a shot and that's kind of how it is for 3x3, too."
Braun played on the U-21 team, beating a U-23 team in the final. This experience helped to pave the way for a future international career.
"We'll see. But I think overall that's my goal for the future," said Braun. "No matter if it's 3-on-3, 5-on-5. But I think playing in the Olympics would be a pretty surreal moment."
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