It was an exhibition game but nevertheless Chris DeMarco, the newly-appointed head coach for The Bahamas’ national senior men’s national team, got off to a winning start when his team defeated Texas Technical University Red Raiders 63-57 in the Bahamas Basketball Federation (BBF) Summer of Thunder at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs Gymnasium on Wednesday night.
The Bahamas used a 13-point lead at the end of the first half to keep the Red Raiders out of reach.
Jaron Cornish led the way for The Bahamas with a game-high 20 points to go with seven rebounds. He made four three-pointers on eight attempts.
Chris Clarke led the way for the Red Raiders with a double-double, scoring 16 points and pulling down 13 boards.
Before the game, DeMarco said, “I just want them to play hard and put their stamp and style on the game. There is no doubt in my mind that our guys won’t back down. They are tough and resilient and they play hard.”
The team responded well to him in the win, outscoring the Red Raiders 21-9 in the second quarter.
DeMarco is no stranger to the BBF as he was around the team last summer and assisted then Head Coach Mario Bowleg.
“I didn’t choose the job as much as I was given the opportunity to help out last summer. Luckily for me, Mario and Steve Barnes and everyone else believed in me enough to name me the head coach. This is a tremendous opportunity and I was able to coach and meet a lot of these players here last summer,” DeMarco said.
He knows that persons will look and think about The Bahamas playing in the Olympics and World Cup. He believes that The Bahamas has the talent to get there one day but knows that it will take a process.
“Everyone keeps bringing up the Olympics and the World Cup – that would be great and I do believe that we have the talent to reach either of those one day. It is a process and we do have to see what we have talent-wise especially when certain players cannot play. I think that the organization has done a great job of bringing everyone together and getting in practices. This stuff matters because we have to build chemistry. A lot of these guys do not know each other’s names so we have to practice a few times so people can get to see what their teammates’ strengths and weaknesses are and you go from there,” DeMarco said.
DeMarco is also an assistant coach of the Golden State Warriors, the three-time NBA champions. He is blessed with having two of the best shooting duos in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who have the green light to shoot. As coach of the National team, DeMarco said he will have to have a style of play that best fits the pieces that he has.
He said, “The Bahamas has a lot of skilled players and they are good at other things other than shooting so you have to build around that. Your style of play will be dictated by who is here so if Buddy Hield is here we might play a different way than if he is not. Right now, the focus is being organized and being more detailed with what we are trying to do with our coverages offensively and defensively – it’s putting a system together to play to our strengths.”
The Bahamas is blessed with having NBA players Chavano “Buddy” Hield and DeAndre Ayton, who have done a lot to put The Bahamas on the map. Both were NBA lottery picks, with Hield going sixth at the 2016 NBA Draft and Ayton going first in 2018.
“They are really proud of being from The Bahamas and having a chance to play in the NBA at a high level to be as good as they are is unbelievable. It is just a testament as to how hard they have worked and it is a great opportunity for myself and our staff to be able to coach these guys. I do think that people need to understand that in international basketball it isn’t taking a bunch of big names and now you are going to be able to win. It is a challenge to get everyone in the same spot and get everyone practicing together and I think that’s the biggest obstacle going forward. This is not just Bahamas Basketball but other countries who have to play in these group stages in February and November. Summer is the only time you really get players who play professionally, in the NBA and college, that is the biggest challenge,” DeMarco said.
He had his first practice on Tuesday night and said it is hard to fit a lot in but at the same time, it has been good for guys to be able to play together and build that chemistry and get to know each other.
This was Team Bahamas’ first of three games in the Summer of Thunder exhibition games. They played Georgetown University Hoyas last night and will play the University of Memphis tomorrow afternoon at 5 p.m.
Team Bahamas has been drawn into Group D of the 2021 FIBA (International Basketball Federation) AmeriCup Qualifiers with the United States of America, Puerto Rico and Mexico, and will play home and away games against those three nations starting in February of 2020.