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Rolle on the island, but not a part of women’s squad

I Bahamian female professional basketball player Waltiea Rolle, left, has been left off the squad that will travel to the FIBA Women’s Caribbean Cup in Paramaribo, Suriname, this week. The team will leave on Wednesday. FILE

One look at Team Bahamas that was just ratified by the Bahamas Basketball Federation (BBF) for the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) Women’s Caribbean Cup in Paramaribo, Suriname, and one would become instantly aware of the noticeable absence of the two Bahamian female professional basketball players, Jonquel Jones and Waltiea Rolle.

Jones is in season with the Connecticut Sun of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) in the United States so her absence is warranted, but Rolle is here in the capital. According to reports, Rolle, who worked out sparingly with the team, wanted to be compensated more than what the federation was willing to provide.

Without getting into specifics, BBF Vice President Mario Bowleg said that the federation is prepared to move forward with the young ladies who have committed themselves to the national program over the past five weeks.

“The Bahamas Basketball Federation is a non-profit organization that seeks to obtain funding from corporate sponsors and the Government of The Bahamas. We are not USA Basketball and we are not Canada Basketball, and we could only do so much,” he said. “We can only provide a stipend for our players what our pockets will allow. We do our endeavor best to ensure that our players are very well insured because we know that the professionals in particular have to go back to their respective teams and clubs to represent themselves and they have a salary to maintain their style of living. However, the federation could only provide a stipend of what it can afford.”

Efforts were made to contact Rolle yesterday, but calls were not returned.

In terms of sponsorship, Courtyard by Marriott has come on board as the title sponsor of the team this year, but terms of the deal were not disclosed. Annually, the Government of The Bahamas provides a grant to the federation, and currently, there are two Bahamian basketball players on subvention which usually require national team service.

Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Michael Pintard said that the Subvention Program has been reviewed and revamped, and will go before the Cabinet of The Bahamas in short order for approval. He said that once an athlete would have been subvented under the new policy, certain requirements would be called for as part of contractual agreements.

“We had a meeting with all of the federations, and we are now ready to take the final paper to Cabinet. That will be done in a matter of weeks,” said the minister. “The public will have a chance during the summer to see the full Subvention Program as it has been revised. The federation makes recommendations of the athletes who would fall in the developmental stage and then you have those who are already considered elite athletes. Those are the persons who would jake up the Subvention Program.

“I could tell you that in the past we had a number of professionals who dominated the Subvention Program. We are seeking to change that in this last draft. We do not believe in someone who is being paid, for example, millions, to be subvented. We do believe that the country should benefit from their services. There are a number of athletes who could be signed to agreements by corporate citizens where they could be a spokesperson for a product, brand, or that particular company, as well as the government could employ them. That is two ways of weaning athletes from the Subvention Program – using their celebrity status to strengthen the brand of an organization. With that said, we are looking forward to more basketball athletes being signed,” he added.

Jones suited up with the team that just missed advancing to the semifinals of the FIBA CBC (Caribbean Basketball Confederation) Championship for Senior Women in Tortola, British Virgin Islands (BVI) in 2014. A year later, the team, without Jones, won the CBC title.

In the case of Rolle, she has never played with the national team. Bowleg said that they simply can’t accommodate specific financial demands at this particular time.

“Persons who would have wanted to put demands on us for a certain quantity, we just can’t assist them with that right now,” he said. “These coaches here are dedicating their own time to the national team program and we can’t even afford to give them a stipend. This is the reason why we are appealing to corporate sponsors to come on board with us. The ministry has mentioned some things being in place to revamp the Subvention Program, and hopefully in this new review we would be able to put more basketball players in subvention. There will be contracts signed to notify players that if they are going to be on subvention, they should be able to represent their country. You can’t receive subvention and don’t want to represent your country.”

Interim Head Coach of the team Wayde Watson said that anyone who could have assisted them in their goal of advancement would have been welcomed, but added that there is only so much that could have been done. The top three nations from the Caribbean Cup will qualify for the FIBA Senior Women’s CentroBasket Championships in Puerto Rico later this summer.

“Waltiea had some logistical concerns that she wanted to get resolved and we didn’t have an opportunity to do that,” he said. “The Higgs young lady (University of Texas junior guard Lashann Higgs) won’t be able to make it for this particular tournament because of her school commitments, and the Armbrister young lady (former University of Georgia forward Shanea Armbrister) is also tied up with some logistics in the United States.”

Watson went on to say: “I believe in commitment. You’re not doing the federation a favor by coming out if you want to come out. It you’re not committed to the program then you’re not an asset to this team. These young ladies who are on this team are the ones who are fully committed to the women’s national basketball program, and as a result, they have been rewarded and are travelling to Suriname to compete for The Bahamas.”

Minister Pintard said that they would love to get deserving young Bahamians on the Subvention Program, so as to alleviate the issue of particular athletes not being a part of the national team process.

“We are going to sign agreements with athletes to let them know what their obligations are,” he said. “We are going to be able to benefit from athletes’ opinions, the government’s opinion and those of members of the private sector. We believe that we need private sector involvement so we could raise money. There is roughly around 1.5 million dollars in the Subvention Program and it should be in excess of three million dollars. The only way that is going to happen is if you have private citizens contributing to that fund. The present structure does not allow for the raising of the capital that we need,” he added.

The senior women’s national basketball team will leave for Suriname on Wednesday, and begin play next week. A total of 12 players will represent the country at the FIBA Women’s Caribbean Cup.

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