Sports

Battle 4 Atlantis begins!

Boasting a top notch field, including four of the top 15 programs in college basketball in the United States, and some of the best players in the nation, the prestigious Battle 4 Atlantis is back and brings with it a tremendous amount of fanfare, excitement and high-level action.

The 2019 Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis Thanksgiving Tournament, the ninth annual classic, gets underway today in the Imperial Ballroom at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, The Bahamas, and will run through Friday. The first game of the three-day affair will get underway at noon today, featuring the Michigan Wolverines and the Iowa State Cyclones.

Former ‘Fab Five’ player with the Wolverines, Juwan Howard, making his first trip to The Bahamas in an official capacity as head coach of the Wolverines, said that he is excited to be here and is looking forward to a thrilling tournament. In fact, all of the teams expressed excitement about the their foreign trip to The Bahamas this year.

“The Bahamas is a beautiful place, and I’m very happy to be here,” said Howard. “The people here are so warm and inviting. They’ve done an excellent job in the way they’ve opened up their island and just showing us how special this place is. The Michigan family has embraced this opportunity, and we’re just looking forward to each and every day of the tournament. On Saturday, there are going to be some sad faces, not because we are going back to a colder Michigan, but because we are leaving a beach and the ocean – thank you Bahamas!”

Rounding out the field of teams is No. 6 North Carolina, No. 8 Gonzaga, No. 11 Oregon, No. 13 Seton Hall, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles.

The University of North Carolina (UNC) Tar Heels and the Crimson Tide will play the second game of the day – today at 2:30 p.m. The winner of that game will play the winner of the Michigan/Iowa State game in the tournament semifinals on Thursday.

Tar Heels’ Head Coach Roy Williams, a regular visitor to The Bahamas, said he loves it here and appreciates the hospitality that is shown to him and his team. This is their second time participating in the Battle 4 Atlantis Classic, beating the Florida Gators in the fifth-sixth place game in 2014 – the same year that Chavano ‘Buddy’ Hield and the Oklahoma Sooners finished second.

“I love The Bahamas. I’ think I’m trying to get Bahamian citizenship the way I keep coming down here, but we love it. I think it helps our team and this tournament, I think it’s the premier Thanksgiving tournament we have in college basketball,” said Williams. “You want to be involved in something that will give you a gauge with how good your team is or how bad it is and this is the tournament for that. I love the way people treat us here, I love the location and this is a big-time tournament.”

Williams leads one of the more storied programs in mens college basketball in the United States. The Tar Heels is just three years removed from a national title, and have won six National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Men’s Tournament Championships – the third-most all-time. They have been the runner-up on five other occasions and have 20 Final Four appearances.

Through four games this season, the Tar Heels sport a 4-0 win-loss record. Williams said he’s using the Battle 4 Atlantis Classic as a measuring stick for his team to see where they’re at and what they need to improve on. So far this season, they are led in scoring by freshman guard Cole Anthony, dropping in 22.8 points per game.

“It’s a work in progress for us. We lost our top five scorers from last year and we had to replace that,” said Williams. “We had three seniors last year who could really shoot the ball. Trying to replace them has been a challenge for us. We haven’t played as well as we want to play, but this weekend will give us a good gauge and tell us a lot about our team.”

Williams himself has visited The Bahamas on seven occasions. This time it’s special because of the donations that they were able to bring down to The Bahamas in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian. Senior guard Brandon Robinson coordinated the collection of 1,300 pounds of hurricane relief supplies at the UNC-Elon game on November 20 for a communications class project. Robinson communicated to ticket-holders through social media the week before the game encouraging fans to bring non-perishable items to the game. The items were loaded on the team plane and delivered to the Children’s Emergency Hostel in New Providence on Sunday.

“We seldom get enough attention for the good things that college basketball players do, and what happened there is one of those things that deserves attention. This was really a neat deal,” said Coach Williams. “This is a situation where people need help and this was a great deal of help. With the donations and the food drive I think it’s great. With the items that were brought in, I think it’s just amazing. I’m very proud of the guys for the way they stepped up and assisted with a worthy cause, and all the people who worked so hard to get it done for us.”

Robinson said it is their intention for this outreach to be ongoing.

“The plan is to continue to assist because there are some people who still want to help. I’m just going to sit down with whoever I need to sit down with and try to figure out a way to get some items over here. The little things could go a long way, so we’re just going to try to keep it going,” he said.

As far as the team is concerned, Robinson said that they’re coming together and just trying to gel as a unit.

“We’re working hard every day, and once we figure out how we’re going to play every game, I think we’ll be ok. We’ll figure it out. I think we’re headed in the right direction,” he said.

The other two games tomorrow will feature the Gonzaga Bulldogs going up against the Golden Eagles at 7 p.m., and Seton Hall battling the Oregon Ducks at 9:30 p.m. The semifinals and relegation games will be played on Thursday, and the championship game and placement games will take place on Friday. The tournament’s championship is set for 2 p.m. on Friday.

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Sheldon Longley

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.

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