It was tough for Catherine Traer to watch three-on-three basketball make its Olympic debut last summer in Tokyo.
The Canadian women have been powerhouses in the game practically since its inception, but were left home from the Olympic qualifying tournament due to a confusing confluence of rules around international player rankings plus the limit of only one team per gender per country.
"The whole time I was (watching) thinking to myself, like, 'Wow, this could be us, we beat these teams, we know these players,'" Traer said.
"It was definitely hard to watch, but also motivating. Some teams . . . really picked up their three-on-three programs, so it was cool to see that the game has really grown. If Canada can do the same, I think we can we can definitely be up there with the best teams in the world."
Traer, Paige Crozon, Kacie Bosch and Michelle Plouffe will represent Canada in the inaugural FIBA 3x3 AmeriCup this weekend in Miami, which is an automatic qualifier for the World Cup in Belgium and the first true national team event for the Canadian women, who largely paid out of pocket to play on the FIBA 3x3 Women's Series.
"The AmeriCup is huge," Traer said. "We're all really happy that Canada Basketball decided to put in a team because it's different than any other event we've participated in, now it’s a national team event."
It's also good news for this part of the world where the three-on-three program still lags behind Europe. By comparison, the seventh version of the Europe Cup was played in September in Jardins du Trocadero, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.
"It was just iconic, to see in Europe, they're at this (high) level," Traer said. "How are they going to shift it towards the Americas to make it bigger, because we've never played any of these teams that we're going to be playing (in Miami). We really don't hear about the South American or Latin American or Caribbean countries playing three-on-three. So, it's exciting that they're having this and hopefully it draws more players to three-on-three."
The Canadian women not only had their sights on playing at the Tokyo Olympics, but even climbing the podium after winning four international tournaments in 2019.
The Canadian three-on-three men played in the Olympic qualifier, but failed to get out of the preliminary round.
COVID-19 has obviously hugely impacted life since. Traer's husband Tommy Scrubb was playing for JL Bourg in France during most of the pandemic, and lockdown in France limited their movement to just a kilometre radius around their home.
The couple had their first child, son Isaiah, on April 25.
Bouncing back from pregnancy to playing three-on-three hasn't been easy.
"Three-on-three is a different beast," said Traer, who played college basketball for both the Ottawa GeeGees and Carleton Ravens. "It's so much faster. Obviously, less people on the court, so you can't really hide . . . Physically and event mentally it was hard keep up with the fast-paced game."
Traer's doctor also cautioned her that because their baby would be big — Isaiah weighed just under nine pounds at birth — that she should avoid any heavy lifting or intense cardio activity over the final couple of months of her pregnancy.
"So, it was hard to come back. I felt very weak, very slow," she said.
I felt like every time I was playing defence, I was gonna break my ankles. But I think three on three is the hardest thing to come back into.
"Definitely feeling better each day, my body doesn't hurt, feeling a lot more like my old self."
Scrubb is now playing for Obradoiro in northwestern Spain. Traer flew home to Chelsea, Que., from Spain on Tuesday to drop their son off with her parents in Chelsea, Que., before flying to Miami.
"They're so excited," she said of her parents. "They recently retired, so full-time grandparents now."
The women are the top seed this weekend, and face Puerto Rico and Uruguay in Pool A action on Saturday.
The Canadian men are the No. 2 seed. They'll face the winner of the qualifying draw — either Uruguay, Haiti or Jamaica — followed by Argentina in pool play on Saturday.
Bikramjit Gill, Alex Johnson, Adika Peter-McNeilly and Steve Sir make up Canada's team for the men's AmeriCup tournament.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 10, 2021.
The Canadian Press