By RENALDO DORSETT
BUDDY Hield was the focus of Bahamian basketball fans at the NBA Draft but it also displayed the extensive talent pool Bahamians get an opportunity to see every year at the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Eight participants from previous Battle 4 Atlantis tournaments were selected in last Thursday’s draft hosted at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Those B4A alumni selected this year included Hield who went sixth to the New Orleans Pelicans, Marquese Chriss from the University of Washington - 8th pick to Sacramento Kings (traded to the Phoenix Suns), Domantas Sabonis from Gonzaga - 10th pick to Oklahoma City, Caris LeVert from University of Michigan- 20th pick to the Indiana Pacers, Malachi Richardson from Syracuse - 22nd pick to Charlotte Hornets (traded to the Sacramento Kings), Dejounte Murray from University of Washington - 29th pick to San Antonio Spurs, Michael Gbinije from Syracuse - 49th pick to Detroit Pistons and Daniel Hamilton from UCONN - 56th pick to Denver Nuggets, and Isiah Cousins – 59th pick to the Sacremento Kings.
It capped a successful season for teams that participated in the tournament as the 2015 B4A champions, the Syracuse Orange, secured a spot in the 2016 NCAA Tournament’s Final Four, alongside three other Battle 4 Atlantis alumni.
Not only did the 2016 NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight boast five teams (62.5 per cent) that had participated in past Battle 4 Atlantis tournaments, but all Final Four teams were Battle-tested alumni.
The Final Four included: Syracuse University (2015), University of Oklahoma (2014), Villanova University (2013), and the University of North Carolina (2013). Both Syracuse and Villanova hold titles as Battle 4 Atlantis Champions for their respective years.
The 2013 Battle 4 Atlantis Champion Villanova Wildcats would go on to win the 2016 NCAA Championship.
The B4A has established a legacy of drafted players in its short history dating back to the first “dress rehearsal” in 2011 which saw Iman Shumpert of Georgia Tech and Justin Harper of Richmond selected.
In 2012, Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb of UConn and Bernard James of Florida State were selected. The 2013 NBA draft featured Gorfui Dieng and Peyton Siva of Louisville along with Mason Plumlee of Duke and Ryan Kelly of Duke and Glen Rice Jr of Georgia Tech. In 2014, the top overall selection Andrew Wiggins of Kansas, Russ Smith of Louisville and Semaj Christon were selected.
Last year’s draft featured Wisconsin teammates Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, Kevon Looney of UCLA, Aaron White of Iowa, JP Tokoto of North Carolina, Darun Hilliard of Villanoza, Josh Richardson of Tenneseee and Norman Powell of UCLA.
Already touted as one of the top early season tournaments in NCAA basketball, early reports indicate the Battle 4 Atlantis has scored another stacked field for 2016.
The 2016 tournament includes the Michigan State Spartans, the Louisville Cardinals, the Wichita State Shockers, St John’s Red Storm, Virginia Commonwealth University Rams, Baylor Bears, LSU Tigers and Old Dominion Monarchs.
It will mark the third consecutive year that a Bahamian will play at home in the Battle 4 Atlantis with point guard Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn who just finished his sophomore season with the Spartans.
The 2016 field will also mark the second time the Cardinals will play in the Battle 4 Atlantis following their appearance in 2012. They fell to Duke in the tournament finale in Nassau but went on to win the NCAA national title.
The 2015 tournament featured a strong Bahamian presence with the Texas A and M Aggies’ Tavario Miller and Texas Longhorns’ Shaquille Cleare.
Buddy Hield of the Oklahoma Sooners and Wannah Bail of the UCLA Bruins became the first Bahamians to play in the tournament when they competed in 2014.
The tournament is staged at the 3,900-seat Imperial Arena, a ballroom converted to a basketball venue.
The event is televised live on ESPN and AXS TV. ESPN2 airs opening round games while ESPN airs the semi-finals, third place and championship games.