Ramona resident Jim Plum remembers playing basketball with his daughter, Kelsey, while she was growing up. And now, with Kelsey Plum’s Olympics gold medal win in 3-on-3 basketball, he realizes all those practices paid off.
“It was wonderful to see her flourish,” said Plum, a counselor at Ramona High School. “I just cried when she won — I was so proud.”
This was the Olympics debut for the 3-on-3 basketball competition, officially known as 3×3.
Kelsey Plum, a Poway resident, and her three teammates (you get one sub) lost only once in nine games — 20-18 against host Japan in the final game of pool play after already securing a bye to the semifinals. They beat France 18-16 in the semis.
The U.S. team triumphed in its final match against Russia on an outdoor court under a canvas roof at Aomi Urban Sports Park July 28 by a score of 18-15. Plum was the first athlete with San Diego ties to win a gold medal in these games.
Jim Plum said the 3×3 players have to be flexible and agile, ready to play any position. Kelsey Plum, 26, is also a professional basketball player for the Las Vegas Aces.
In June 2020, Plum suffered an Achilles tendon injury, which typically takes a year or more to completely heal. She had a slow recovery.
“She took her first step on July 28, 2020 and a year later she won a gold medal with the USA team,” her father said. “She scored the most points of anybody in the tournament.”
Plum said she thought winning the Olympics wouldn’t be in the cards for her once she tore her Achilles.
“I just feel really grateful and blessed to have the opportunity,” she said. “USA Basketball didn’t quit on me. They could have taken somebody else, and they didn’t. I’m just super grateful.
“This would probably rank highest on my list (of career accomplishments) so far,” she added.
And that’s quite a list. Plum, who grew up in Poway, won multiple section and state titles at La Jolla Country Day School. She became the NCAA’s career scoring leader at Washington and averaged 31.7 points as a senior. She was the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA Draft in 2017. She won a World Cup title with Team USA in traditional basketball in 2018.
Plum is a very passionate player who works hard at staying in top physical condition, sleeping and eating right, maintaining her strength and working on her skillset, her father said.
“She’s 5 feet, 9 inches and not big,” he said. “She’s left handed and a sharp shooter.”
The U.S. victory was short lived, however.
Due to the coronavirus, the U.S. team, like all the other athletes in Japan, had 48 hours to leave the country, Jim Plum said. His daughter chose to unwind in Hawaii afterward, he said.
“This is not your typical Olympics,” he said. “After the team won the medal, they had 48 hours to get out of town.”