UCD Marian man and 3 on 3 organiser Conor Meany. Picture: Martin Doherty

Dundrum Town Centre is set to host the inaugural Hula Hoops 3 by 3 basketball tournament, with the men’s and women’s contests taking place outdoors in the very heart of the shopping centre throughout the day on May 12.

3 on 3 basketball – a reduction in the normal five-a-side format – is a fast rising concept that’s just been added to the Olympics. Games are played out at a frantic pace, with a maximum time of 10 minutes, but contests are often won earlier with a team reaching the points-based win ‘finish line’ of 21 points.

Tournaments are equally frantic, with the half-court contests rotating with a time between games of only three or four minutes. “It’s a lot like the basketball equivalent of beach volleyball,” Basketball Ireland and UCD Marian man Conor Meany explains. “There’s music, a party atmosphere, bleachers to watch the game from, inflatables, mascots, stuff like that. They’ll be plenty for kids to do.

“I guess it’s to basketball what 20/20 cricket is to cricket. We’re hoping it will bring in lots of kids and allow us to take the game to them, and perhaps get a few more playing, too.”

On the court, the party will feature many of Ireland’s top basketball teams, including men’s national finalists UCD Marian, who won their first title in 40 years a few weeks ago and their final opponents Pyrobel Killester. Women’s national finalists UCC Glanmire and Courtyard Liffey Celtics will also compete.

Meany – who won’t be taking part due to his organisation role, but is a regular starter with UCD Marian in the game’s standard format – explained that the competition might go very differently to the regular season, because of the set up.

“It’s still at a very early stage,” Meany said of the concept. “A lot of teams are still finding out who their best players are in 3 on 3. It doesn’t need quite the same skill set as the full game, and the best players tend to be all rounders.

“We’ll have a lot of the best players in the country playing, including a lot of the Americans who play in our league, but this version of the sport has only been around for 7 or 8 years at a good level. It’s great for countries like Ireland, as you only need to have 4 really strong players [as opposed to 12 in the full-sized, squad-based game] to compete.

“A good range of skills is important. It helps to be big and athletic, but also to be able to shoot. The scoring system is different – you get a point for a normal basket and two points for a ‘three pointer’, so shooting three points is key.

“It’s long been said in basketball ‘you live and die on the three pointers’, but it’s also important to be able to draw fouls, the free throws become very important, so attacking the basket works too. It makes for a really good overall game, with none of the specialist roles of normal basketball. Playing outdoors can have an interesting affect, too.”

The Ireland women’s side has already gone to the European Championships in the 3 by 3 format, and Meany and Basketball Ireland hope that the fast, fun structure and easier access to tournaments in terms of numbers will help with players dropping off as they become teenagers, and help grow the 30,000 plus participants they already have.

Admission on the day is free, with men’s and women’s tournaments integrated throughout. Things get underway at 9.30am, with the finals scheduled for just before 5pm.