CHANTELLA Perera is no stranger to the green and gold… but she thought that time in her basketball career had come and gone.
Having represented her country with the Emerging Opals, the World University Games and the FIBA Under 21 World Championship are all extraordinary achievements, but Perera thought she was no longer in the reckoning for Australian duties at 31.
With WNBL championships and a stellar college career at Fresno State, she’d ticked off many stellar achievements within the sport… and there was another accolade to add.
Given the rampaging rise of 3×3 basketball – a modified format with three players on each team playing on a half-court – Australia has thrown itself headlong into the new concept, especially with its newly appointed Olympic Games status.
Adding to her prior international credentials, Perera jumped at the chance to play 3×3 ball for the country at the FIBA 3×3 Asia Cup, held recently in Mongolia.
It turned out to be a winning move with Australia knocking over Malaysia 21-15 to take out the title.
“It was amazing,” Perera said. “I didn’t think I ever thought I’d be wearing green and gold again especially at age 31.
“It was such an honour and privilege and I’m so grateful for the opportunity – it was an incredible experience and any time you put the green and gold makes you feel so proud to be Australian.”
Without experience in the new format, it was an eye-opening experience for Perera and her team mates – Canberra Isabelle Bourne, Sarah McAppion and Carlie Smith – but they took to the format quickly.
“It’s been really awesome to experience a gold medal and come home to lots of lovely messages and a proud country,” Perera said. “We went into the tournament with a lot of unknowns – we didn’t know each other, never played together and none of us had played 3×3.
“To get the first win under our belt was really good for our confidence especially against a strong team too.
“From there I think we just kept attacking and because it all happens so quickly before we knew it we were in the grand final.
“Playing China in the semi was the toughest game and I think that really prepped us well for Malaysia and we were ready for their style of game.”
The lightning-fast format took in five games across two days – including the quarters, semis and the grand final held on 29 October.
It created an amazing atmosphere as the Mongolian crowd took to international basketball on their home court.
“Mongolians love their basketball and just playing in the whole 3×3 environment was so much fun and exciting,” Perera said. “The crowds were great and the game is like a big event, so it really feels like you’re on the big stage.”
The new 3×3 format has divided opinions but Perera thought the up-tempo format made for brilliant competition.
“I loved the game – for me I found my style of play really suited the format,” Perera said. “It’s so fast and physical and that really suits the way I play.
“I think it’s a really interesting form of basketball and will become really popular over the next few years.
“I work heavily in sport and in particular creating fan experiences, this was certainly a game designed to keep fans entertained and it is so much fun for the players too.
“I think the format is a really smart move by FIBA and it will help increase engagement in basketball overall.”