BY MIKE LUCAS
UWBadgers.com Senior Writer
MADISON, Wis. — Whether it was about developing an appetite for 3×3 basketball, or creating his own clothing line, Khalil Iverson was more than willing to engage in conversation about his future. It went beyond small talk. Something that was not always the case in the past with the reticent Iverson.
“In college, I was more reserved,” agreed the former Wisconsin wing player whose loudest statements were explosive dunks during his four seasons of competition, spanning 135 career games. “Over the years, I’ve just become, I don’t know the word, but more talkative and outgoing with people.”
The other day, Iverson was talking from his hotel room in France, the first stop on an international excursion for USA Basketball culminating with the upcoming FIBA 3×3 World Cup in Antwerp, Belgium. Pool play will get under way on June 21 with games against Austria and Slovenia.
While armed with precious little experience and still being a novice at the 3×3 sport, Iverson cited some big picture motivation, “Down the line, if I’m doing well and continuing to have success within the sport, I would definitely love to be able to play in the Olympics and bring back a medal.”
There are many steps before reaching that ultimate goal, the 2024 Paris Olympics. But in donning a USA jersey for the first time, Iverson said, “It’s really something you dream of. Just getting a call to go to training camp – and having a shot to make this team to begin with – is a great feeling.’ ‘
USA Basketball is in the process of growing the game, and talent pool, by fielding multiple national 3×3 teams whereby individuals will be evaluated and accumulate points. Explained CEO Jim Tooley, “We’re trying to build out the ecosystem to get more players in 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 going to a 3-on-3 trial, the Red Bull session, and I went and enjoyed it,” said the 24-year-old Iverson, who went on to spell out some of the differences with 5-on-5 hoops beyond playing on a half-court. “It’s definitely faster and pretty physical as well.
“There’s a 12-second shot clock (and 10-minute game clock with the first team to 21 points winning) so you’ve got to get into your actions and get up a shot pretty quick. The rebounding and physicality are demanding on your body. You could be out there for a minute and be dead tired.
“So, you want to sub every dead ball essentially so you can have fresh legs in there.””
Joining Iverson on the FIBA World Cup team are a couple of 3×3 veterans: 5-9 Dominque Jones, who played at Fort Hays State and with the Harlem Globetrotters and won a gold medal in the 2019 Pan American games; and 6-1 Kidani Brutus, another New Yorker from Harlem, and Manhattan College.
Rounding out Team USA in Belgium is 6-2 James Parrott, the other newcomer to the 3×3 sport. Parrott, an Omaha, Neb. native, played collegiately at Midland and Bellevue University and also toured with the Globetrotters. Parrott, like Iverson, has appeared in just one 3X tournament.
On our way ✈️ Antwerp!
— USA Basketball 3×3 (@usab3x3) June 19, 2022
As for what Iverson, a powerful 6-5 leaper, brings to the sport, he said, “I definitely feel like I have an advantage because of my athleticism – rebounding and attacking off the dribble. At the same time with being physical, I ‘m able to guard pretty much anyone on the court.’
It was one of Iverson’s strengths with the Badgers, the ability to guard the point or the block. After coming off the bench his first two seasons, he started 66 consecutive games his final two years. As a senior, he was a key cog in the Big Ten’s No. 1 ranked defensive unit (60.3 ppg in league play).
“Khalil Iverson can guard one through five,” observed college basketball analyst Robbie Hummel, an ex-Purdue star.” He’s a terrific athlete and he’s embraced his role as a big-time 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 of 2019. Iverson was on a roll. He had his first two career double-doubles in each of the last two regular season games against Iowa and Ohio State. And he scored in double-figures 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 the MVP of the 2019 FIBA 3×3 World Cup in Amsterdam. He led the Americans to a gold medal. Unfortunately, Team USA failed to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
After graduating from the UW with his degree in sociology, Iverson played one year in the NBA G-League with the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Drive, an affiliate then of the Detroit Pistons. Last season, Iverson was a productive starter for the Lahti basketball club in Finland’s top tier league.
Along with averaging 14 points and 7 rebounds, he had 50 steals and 28 blocks in 20 games. Iverson 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 caught my rhythm in being able to be 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 than playing in the G League where it’s more about guys pretty much playing one-on-one basketball. That’s how I felt anyway.
“It was almost like Wisconsin (the Badger system) as far as moving the ball and trying to get the best shots. Things like that. I ended up being able to showcase everything I could do on both ends of the court. same exact thing (as a UW senior).
As far as adjusting to a different country, he added, “Finland is kind of like Wisconsin in terms of the weather. A lot of snow. Pretty cold. Days are a little longer. It would get dark so quickly. I’m super picky on everything I eat. After about two weeks, I was able to routinely go and buy things I knew I liked.
“Finland was a different culture. But I got my schedule down and stuck with it.””
Iverson felt like he grew up last year. Just like he had the year before. The COVID Year. Out of basketball, and between gigs in Grand Rapids and Lahti, he returned to his home in Delaware, Ohio. He loved being around family again. His mom Tracey. His older brother Kevin Jr. His sister Kourtnie.
From this reunion sprouted inspiration – Iverson’s clothing line, Thoroughbred Clothing.
“My brother helped me come up with that whole idea – it was just something I wanted to do,” Iverson said. “I’m a relaxed kind of guy. So, we have sweat pants, sweat shorts, t-shirts, hats, flip-flops, hoodies, all those types of clothing … Now, I’m just trying to expand my brand further.”
On the Thoroughbred designation, he explained, “We have different slogans for our shirts. One of the slogans was a ‘Different breed.’ Like a thoroughbred. Bred different. Like a different breed of horse. Or a specific breed of horse, I guess you could say. Different from the rest. Stronger, faster.
“I see myself being different from everyone just in terms of the things that I like and the things that I do in my spare time. Whenever I’m hanging out with teammates, they’re always asking, ‘Why are you doing this?’ Or that?’ So, it clicked. Also, my high school mascot was a horse (a Pacer).”
Iverson has come a long way from Hayes High School in Delaware. (His father, Kevin Iverson, Sr. passed away from a heart attack in November of Khalil’s senior year. He was only 43.) Right now, he’s focusing on mastering 3×3 basketball to the extent that he can help Team USA earn a medal in Belgium.
“While I’m doing this, I want to give it all I’ve got and take it as serious as if it was 5-on-5 – just like anything I’m doing, I want to try and get the most out” of it,” said Iverson, who is uncertain about his future plans.
“That will always be something I would love to be able to do,” he said. “Because it’s always been a goal of mine to play in the NBA, if I was able to say that I checked that off my list would be amazing. For now, I’m loving every moment and every memory I’m making and I’m just trying to make more.”
Like his unforgettable reverse alley-opp dunk against Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament held on the most celebrated hoop stage of all, Madison Square Garden. Iverson caught the ball over his head on a lob from Brad Davisonone of the many former UW teammates that he still talks with.
Davison, Aleem Ford, D’Mitrik TriceBrevin Pritzl, Ethan Happ and Carter Higginbottom have all found out the same thing, too. He’s more talkative and outgoing than ever.