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Monday, Jun 5, 2023
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Jelks, Holland represent SoCon in National 3x3 Tournament

Two seniors from the Mercer men’s basketball team participated in a national three-on-three basketball tournament the weekend of March 30.

Stephon Jelks and Ria’n Holland traveled to San Antonio to compete in the Dos Equis 3x3U National Championship. The tournament was open to college seniors who have exhausted their eligibility to continue playing basketball.

The teams consisted of four players from nearly every Division One conference in the NCAA. Teams could earn $1,000 per win in pool play and bracket play. The team to win the tournament won an additional $50,000 to split evenly between the teammates.

“It was cool. Just seeing them give us $100 when we first got there I was like, ‘It’s already a win,’” said Stephon Jelks. “Each game if you won, they gave you a bag with 1,000 ones in it and teams would just throw it up in the air and things like that.”

Jelks’ and Holland’s team consisted of themselves, Alex Thompson of Samford University and Marvin Smith of the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. They battled teams from the Big 10, Big South and Conference USA.

Each game was really tight, but the Southern Conference lost each of their three games by a combined six points. Jelks hurt his hand in the first game versus the Big Ten so the Southern Conference Squad played without a sub for all three games.

“It’s just a different type of game. It’s not like five on five. It’s really fast paced. A lot of consistent movement, a lot of running,” said Jelks.

Teams from other smaller conferences performed extremely well, upsetting bigger, more well-known conferences.

The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, comprised of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, beat the ACC with a buzzer beater on day one and followed it up with a win over the Western Athletic Conference.

The Southwestern Athletic Conference, another HBCU centric conference, handled the Big 12 easily and then beat the Colonial Athletic Conference.

“Almost every game I saw was competitive. No matter what conference you were in, you were able to compete and get stuff done,” Holland said. “It was intense.”

Even though the games were only three-on-three, the energy and fervor of college basketball fans was not any less exciting.

“It was really electrifying actually,” Jelks said. “Close games, people were getting intense out there. Military personnel were out there. It was just a crazy atmosphere.”

Festivities outside of the actual tournament included slam dunk and three-point competitions.

Back at the hotel, a player’s only lounge comprised Playstation 4’s where players competed in the online game Fortnite.

Most of all, Jelks and Holland appreciated the chance to represent Mercer and the Southern Conference one last time.

“It was an honor to be selected to represent our conference and our school, so it felt very special to be a part of it,” Holland said.

“It felt good to get the SoCon out there. Even though we didn’t win, I mean people could see that we could compete on different levels,” Jelks said. “It was three different conferences with three different types of players—high major, mid-major, stuff like that—so it was good to represent the SoCon in a good way.”

Ohio State won the Dos Equis 3x3U National Tournament. Each player walked away with $13,250 in their pocket.


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