Eyes forward for Caribbean Tip-off
With a successful showing at the first Caribbean Tip-off showcase that wrapped up on Sunday evening at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium, organizers are already looking forward to next year’s showcase.
This year saw 14 teams participate in the showcase. There were two National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I committed Bahamians who flaunted their skills at home in Samuel “Sammy” Hunter and Kai Jones.
Steve Barnes, one of the organizers of the showcase, looked back at the tournament and said he saw potential and where he can make it better.
“What I am seeing is the potential but I also see where I can make it so much better. It was very important for Ron Hershco to see the showcase, especially that game with Brewster Academy against Crestwood Preparatory. That was what we were trying to create, a big time environment that feels like you are watching a college game. That is our goal, to bring that energy level. I have had positive feedback. I did not get any negative feedback and it has been great,” Barnes said.
There were college and NBA scouts out at the showcase for the three days and Barnes said it was a huge deal to have them here.
“It is huge,” he said. “That is something that we want to build on. They are getting ready for their season. I had two or three on Friday. I also had the University of Miami, Wake Forest, Ole Miss and Bradley University. It is up to us to get the information out more. We also had a few NBA guys here from teams such as Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers.”
Mario Bowleg, vice-president of the Bahamas Basketball Federation (BBF), said the federation wanted to expose Bahamian fans and locals to this level of basketball.
“It has been great. This is exactly what we wanted. The federation wanted to expose the Bahamian fans and players to what the level of basketball is at around the world as it relates to high school, college and pro. For the last 24-28 months we have been having World Cup Qualifiers with the national team, Summer of Thunder with Division I college teams and now we are letting our high schools know this is the level you need to get at. These are the top teams in the USA with Putnam Science Academy and Brewster Academy. There is also Crestwood Prep and British Columbia Preparatory who are top schools in Canada. You can see the [imbalance] when they match up with local teams,” Bowleg said.
He is very proud of Jones and Hunter as they commit to play Division I collegiate basketball next fall. He thinks it is great for basketball in the country.
Ron Hershco, owner of the Courtyard Marriott, the team’s hotel, said he jumped at the opportunity to get involved.
“I met Barnes and he explained to me how it works. I look at it as an opportunity to bring tourists and teams to The Bahamas. As a side product we will have increased occupancy for the hotel. When you bring these two things together it will assist The Bahamas,” Hershco said.
He added that it was a good turnout and the teams that came were very good. To him, the showcase beat all expectations.
Dave Maron, who is the director of the National Prep School Invitational in Rhode Island, remarked that the showcase was very well organized and garnered the interest of the locals with the inclusion of Jones and Hunter.
He said: “I feel that it has been good. I was hoping to see more college coaches but everyone was preparing for the season. There has been a good crowd and it is very well organized. Having Jones and Hunter helped with the local interest.”
His tournament has seen over 90 NBA players and over 1,800 Division I players.
As for teams in the next showcase, Barnes said the coaches said they want to come back and teams as far Israel are looking to come.
“I had all the coaches say that they want to come back. There are colleges calling Dave Moran saying they are interested in coming. We have people from Israel that contacted us. We can make this into a big deal and have more teams come down,” Barnes said.
Bowleg also said he had teams from four different countries who reached out inquiring to bring their teams to play in the showcase next year.
The organizers are looking to have the showcase again next year.
Bowleg made sure he added that he wants to see more Bahamians come out next year as they put on a great show.
Helsinki Basketball Academy (Finland), Redemption Basketball Academy (United States), British Colombia Christian Preparatory (Canada), Putnam Science Academy (United States), Brewster Academy (United States), Ridley College Preparatory (Canada), Tabernacle Christian Academy (Grand Bahama, The Bahamas), Anatol Rodgers Senior High School (Nassau, The Bahamas), St. Thomas More (United States), Crestwood College Preparatory (Canada), St. Augustine’s College (Nassau, The Bahamas), Rise Preparatory (Canada), St. George’s High School (Grand Bahama, The Bahamas) and C.I. Gibson Senior High School (Nassau, The Bahamas) were the teams that participated.
Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism