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Aces guard Kelsey Plum embraces 3-on-3 opportunity with USA Basketball

Kelsey Plum doesn’t seem to be discouraged by her new role as the first guard off the Aces’ bench.

“I’m one of the best players on the court in my mind,” she said.

The WNBA court — or the three-on-three court.

Plum is among a group of WNBA players set to represent USA Basketball next week in three-on-three competition at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Graz, Austria. The tournament runs from May 26 to May 30, meaning Plum will miss some Aces games. Perhaps as many as six, according to coach Bill Laimbeer.

But it’s an opportunity the 26-year-old is embracing. A chance to play in the inaugural three-on-three tournament this summer at the Olympics, the pinnacle of international sport.

“You don’t get to do this very often, especially — it’s the first of it’s kind,” said Plum, who will play Tuesday when the Aces meet the Seattle Storm for the second time in four days. “I’m going to try to make an impact while I’m here.

“When I go, I’m going to take care of business and when I come back, I just want to be an integral part of what we do.”

Plum has a lengthy history with USA Basketball, dating back to her days as a high school standout in the San Diego area. She’s played for the U18, U19 and senior national teams, winning the FIBA World Cup in 2018. She was invited last February to join in a three-on-three training camp.

Olympic qualifying was supposed to take place last March in Bengaluru, India. But the coronavirus pandemic forced a postponement, and Plum tore her Achilles in June while playing the same style of three-on-three she’ll play next week in Austria.

She spent several months rehabilitating, returning in February to the court for training with USA Basketball. She’ll join Team USA after Tuesday’s game and will represent the United States in Austria alongside Chicago Sky center Stefanie Dolson, Dallas Wings guard Allisha Gray and Seattle Storm wing Katie Lou Samuelson.

Laimbeer has braced for Plum’s absence, and said that it’s unlikely the Aces will sign another player while she’s gone. Plum played 26 minutes against Seattle in the season opener Saturday — the fourth most of any Las Vegas player — and Laimbeer will have to adjust his rotation accordingly.

Plum believes they’ll be fine with out her, noting with a grin that the Aces are “pretty loaded.”

“For me, it’s just been about preparing my mind for the transitions that are going to come and go through the season,” Plum said. “The team is going to need me in a big way. Probably not at the beginning of the season. It’s going to be at the end of the season. I’m ready for that.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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