David set to take on Goliath

Team Bahamas to battle the United States today

The Bahamas’ senior men’s national basketball had it’s final practice before competition gets underway in the final window of the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) AmeriCup 2022 Qualifiers yesterday morning.

Now, the squad’s focus shifts to a tough matchup against basketball giant, the United States of America (USA), this afternoon. The game is set to be played at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico at 5:30 p.m. local time, 4:30 p.m. here in The Bahamas.

The Bahamas is ranked at number 57 in the world while the USA is ranked at number one.

This matchup will be the first of two games in this the third and final window. The Bahamas will play the host country Puerto Rico tomorrow night at the same venue. Team Bahamas has one goal, secure a spot among the top 12 teams who will play in the regional final in September 2022. To accomplish this goal, they will need at least a split this weekend.

The 12-man roster consists of Nashad Mackey, Dominick Bridgewater, Michael Carey, Arron Levarity, David Nesbitt, D’Shon Taylor, Godfrey Rolle, Jaron Cornish, Kentwan Smith, Mychel Thompson, Travis Munnings and Tavario Miller.

Head Coach Chris DeMarco his currently fulfilling his assistant coaching duties for the Golden State Warriors, so Bahamas Basketball Federation (BBF) President Mario Bowleg will serve as the head coach for the team this weekend. He will be assisted by Steve Barnes, Perry Thompson and Moses Johnson. Elvardo Kemp is the team manager and Eugena Patton is the team physiotherapist. John-Marc Nutt is the public relations officer.

Team Bahamas arrived in Puerto Rico on Monday night and had their first practice on Tuesday night. Bowleg was very confident about the team before they went to Puerto Rico and said after the practice sessions that he loved the team’s energy.

“The energy displayed by the entire team showed that the guys are ready to go out and ready to face this challenge of trying to win both of these games in this window,” he said. “I am pleased with the roster. I believe that we are well-balanced. We have length and are very athletic. We have the potential to play very good defense. Playing teams like the USA and Puerto Rico, we want to be able to switch on everything in the man-to-man situation. With us having multiple players at the same height at around 6’ 7” and 6’ 8”, we have a tremendous opportunity to compete. Once we are able to compete we give ourselves a chance to win and that is all that matters to me.”

In this window, former National Basketball Association (NBA) players will be in action – Isaiah Thomas, Joe Johnson and Brandon Bass for the USA, and Shabazz Napier and J.J. Barea for Puerto Rico. Bridgewater, who is honored to be playing for The Bahamas, said he is looking forward to playing in the tournament.

“It is going to be a fun tournament going up against former NBA guys. I am looking to going out there and perform as a unit together and we should be alright,” Bridgewater said. “We have a good team – guys who can play ball. Everyone knows what we need to do. We will be alright.”

Bridgewater was the youngest player on the team, and was instrumental, in Team Bahamas’ historic 76-59 victory against Mexico in the first window of the FIBA AmeriCup 2022 Qualifiers back in February 2020. He finished that game with 15 points.

The team has a good mixture of veterans and youth. Bowleg stated that the team will continue to improve on some things to give them a chance to compete.

“I believe that our preparation as it relates to the game plan for both teams has been in place and we will continue to work on those things and continue to improve on the things that we need to improve on to give ourselves a chance to compete. Having veterans like Thompson, Nesbitt, Munnings along with young players like Bridgewater and Rolle, gives me a good feeling that we are well-balanced. We have some pieces that we did not have before – we have experience along with some youth who will give us an opportunity to compete,” Bowleg stated.

During the last window in Indianapolis, Indiana, back in November, The Bahamas was blasted by the United States and lost a close game to Puerto Rico in which they were shut out 15-0 in the final five and a half minutes of the game. They were without the services of players such as Munnings, Miller, Nesbitt, Bridgewater and Carey.

The Bahamas is currently fourth in Group D behind the United States, Mexico and Puerto Rico. The United States has an unblemished 4-0 record, securing eight points. Mexico is second with a 2-2 win/loss record and six points, and Puerto Rico and The Bahamas are tied with identical 1-3 records and five points each. Just the top three nations will advance to the 2022 FIBA AmeriCup.

The Bahamas wins a tiebreaker with Mexico and will have to beat Puerto Rico by more than six points to ensure that it advances ahead of Puerto Rico should both of them end up in a tie this weekend. The crucial game this weekend is the one against Puerto Rico tomorrow night. A victory would almost certainly assure The Bahamas of a spot in the 2022 FIBA AmeriCup Tournament which is a qualifier for the 2024 Olympic Games.

Bowleg said that he hopes that the country will continue to keep them in prayer and continue to give them the mental and moral support that they need.

The team is set to return home on Sunday.

Jump Line – The crucial game this weekend is the one against Puerto Rico tomorrow

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Simba French

Simba joined The Nassau Guardian in 2012 as a technical producer for Guardian Radio 96.9 FM. He joined the Editorial Department as a sports reporter in 2018. Simba has covered a wide range of sports stories, including the 2018 CARIFTA in Nassau, Bahamas. Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism

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