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BBF names team for Centrobasket Under-17  Championships

The Bahamas Basketball Federation (BBF) has officially named the team that will travel to the Centrobasket Under-17 Championships for Girls this Friday.

The championships are set for July 7-11 at the historic Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Team Bahamas has to finish in the top three in order to qualify for the 2020 FIBA Americas Under-18 Championships.

It certainly wouldn’t be an easy task as the Bahamian young ladies will be up against powerful nations in this region such as host country Puerto Rico, Guatemala and El Salvador. Those three nations are in Pool B with The Bahamas. In Pool A are the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Barbados and Costa Rica.

Named to the team for The Bahamas are co-captains Karolyn Baptiste and Michelle Butler, as well as Rhema Collins, Laverne Armbrister, Jade Brown, Antonicia Moultrie, Denika Lightbourne, Veronaye Charlton, Kendi Outten, Khyla Shakespeare, Erin Williams, Danae Malcolm and Ajani Culmer.

The head coach is Varel Clarke-Davis and she will be assisted by Anton Francis, Devon Johnson and Shakira Farrington (operations). Team manager is Shantell Penn, and Sasha Ferguson will travel as the team’s athletic director.

“This particular team has been working together for the past two months. There are three girls from Freeport on the team, and it is a good mixture of girls from government and private schools,” said Clarke-Davis. “We have prepared as best as we could, and I think this team will do very well. Our goal is to go into Puerto Rico and come away with a medal. I believe that our chances are good. I don’t believe that two months is enough time to prepare, but we tried our best to get them together as much as possible. They worked very hard and are well-prepared. Once they go out there and do their best, that’s all we could ask for.”

The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has sanctioned the tournament as a major qualifier in the FIBA Americas region. The Bahamas has qualified out of the Caribbean Basketball Confederation (CBC) Championships on many occasions, but has never gotten past Centrobasket in youth girls. Clarke-Davis feels that with the team they have assembled, this is the year to do so.

“In our bracket, we have the host nation Puerto Rico who should be tough, but we just have to focus on what we have to do. We are prepared and we know what we have to do against those teams,” said Clarke-Davis. “Once we go out there and execute, we should be able to come back with a medal.

“This year, the team has size to go along with speed. They are very athletic and we feel we could match up with anyone. In the past, we haven’t had that much height, but this year we have that. My job as a head coach is to put them in a position to succeed and bring back a medal for the country. We have every intention of doing that.”

Clarke-Davis said they have been doing quite a few shooting drills in the past two months.

“We’re always very athletic – fast and quick, but this year we feel that we have a combination of everything. We’ve struggled with shooting in the past, but this year, we feel that we have about two or three shooters on this team who could knock down that outside shot for us, so we should fare well in that area,” she said.

Co-captain Baptiste, named to the youth girls national team for the second consecutive year, said that they just need to continue to put God first and believe in themselves.

“Once we go out there and execute on the defensive side of the ball, the offense will come,” she said. “We’re pretty confident. We just have to go out there and build chemistry and work as a team. Once we do that, we should get a favorable outcome. It’s been great so far. We have a lot of energy and we just need to bring that to the basketball court. Once we play together, I believe that we’ll do very well.”

BBF President Mario Bowleg said that they have made it mandatory for national teams to engage in a certain number of scrimmage games in order to build team chemistry before leaving for competition.

“We need our national teams to get in the work that they need,” said Bowleg. “With a lot of our teams in the past, after the second or third games of competition, we just start playing competitively. That’s the chemistry kicking in. For that reason, I made it mandatory that all of our national teams have a minimum of five scrimmage games before they leave for competition so that coaches could see what the players could do, including their strengths and weaknesses and how they react to different sets which is very important. If they could get out of the gates properly, I could see this team qualifying.”

BBF Treasurer Simone Beneby, who will travel as one of two BBF delegates along with Latoya Silver, said she’s very comfortable with the make-up of the team.

“I feel that this is one of the better junior teams that we have put together,” she said. “They went up against the senior team and they fared pretty well. We wanted them to be tested defensively before they went into competition, and I’m proud to say that this group of girls not only held their own defensively, but they held their own offensively as well. With that, I’m confident that they are going to go out there and perform very well.”

The Bahamas will play its first game of the Centrobasket Under-17 Championships for Girls against El Salvador on Sunday. That game will take place at 3:15 p.m. They will play Puerto Rico next week Monday, and then Guatemala next Tuesday.

Sheldon Longley

Sports Editor at The Nassau Guardian
Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.
Education: College of The Bahamas, Associates in Accounting

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