Basketball: Excitement of 3x3 opens up fresh Olympic hopes for Kiwi ballers

Basketball New Zealand is hoping a big investment in a shorter form of the game will pay off with more crowds and more medals.

Twenty teams are competing in Invercargill, at the National Basketball League's [NBL] first-ever three-on-three tournament.

The format is billed as the world's number one urban team sport, and it's non-stop action.

"Well fast, furious, and physical," says NBL General Manager Justin Nelson.

"That's what 3x3 basketball is about. It's very very quick, there's a lot of change of possession, it is incredibly physical."

Played on a half-size court, teams target a single hoop, aiming to be the first to 21 points.

It's a new format for players like Tall Black Ethan Rusbatch, who's relishing the fast pace.

"Our aim is to just put the ball in a lot quicker and faster than the other team," Rusbatch says.

"Get to the final score before they do."

New Zealand's already tasted international success in the sport, with Otago Nuggets' Sam Timmins part of the team that won the under-18 World Championships five-years-ago.

"Smart players do really well in 3x3," says Timmins. "Obviously players that can shoot, because you know - two's worth twice as much as one." 

Interest in the tournament's grown steadily over the three days and Basketball New Zealand keen to expand it into a month-long competition.

"This is about putting the show on," says Neilson.

"It's about showing viewers as well what 3x3 is all about. 

"And it's only going to get bigger and better."

3x3's also been added to the Tokyo Olympics, giving Kiwi players another opportunity to shoot for.