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Grand Bahama’s huge basketball presence

The electricity that charged the atmosphere in the St. George’s High School Gym this past Saturday night when Notre Dame’s Natalie Novosel lifted from the free-throw line and hit the game-winning shot against Duke University was an exclamation point on the huge basketball presence in the second city.

It was sports/tourism at its best in Grand Bahama during the Junkanoo Jam Tournament. While watching the teams play, particularly the Notre Dame-Duke match, I was puzzled as to why such a fantastic event was relatively low-key. It’s amazing to contemplate that a competition that draws the cream of the crop of National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) female basketball programs is not given the mega-national marketing that it deserves.

The Junkanoo Jam is a bonanza. In the Freeport Division, along with Notre Dame and Duke were the University of Southern California (USC) and Gardner-Webb University. The Lucaya Division showcased Texas A&M University, St. John’s University, Temple University and Iowa University. (Texas A&M topped the Lucaya Division).

That’s a high-powered group. They came in with the full accompaniment of personnel inclusive of players, head coaches, their many assistants, attendants, statistical workers, journalists and traveling supporters, parents, guardians and friends.

One of the head coaches was a big name from the Los Angeles Lakers’ high-flying showtime era. Michael Cooper who together with Magic Johnson made the “Coop-A-Loop” famous is the head coach for USC. The game between Notre Dame and Duke emphasized the high-class quality of competition. The first half was dominated by Duke. The shots were falling, the rebounds for the most part came off to Duke players. Their defense stifled Notre Dame and they looked headed for a comfortable win with a 36-20 halftime lead.

Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins got very active in the second half and helped to anchor an oppressive defense along with fellow backcourt mate Fredericka Miller. Duke had held on however and still led 54-51 with 1:25 remaining in regulation. Kayla McBride hit one of two from the line. Diggins then thrilled onlookers with a Magic Johnson-like ‘coast to coast and finish’ display to knot the score at 54-54 with 13 seconds left. The Diggins’ basket was the prelude to Novosel’s last second bank shot gem.

The Junkanoo Tournament is one of the top classics associated with the NCAA. The organizers ought to have talks with the Ministry of Tourism, geared toward maximizing the vast potential of the event. The marketing obviously needs to be stepped up. Undoubtedly, if the tournament was presented through a strong marketing program to basketball enthusiasts in New Providence, in particular, and Florida, there would likely be a jammed gym during all of the games.

Corporate sponsors would then be attracted en masse. I think the Junkanoo Jam in Grand Bahama has awesome possibilities.

(To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at [email protected])

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