Officials from the Bahamas Basketball Federation and the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture have officially launched a campaign to garner public attention and get financial sponsors for Team Bahamas as it gets set to begin its bid toward FIBA World Cup and Olympic qualification.
By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
In 46 days, the Bahamas begins its bid toward FIBA World Cup and Olympic qualification and local stakeholders are petitioning the corporate Bahamas to rally behind the effort.
The Bahamas Basketball Federation, in conjunction with the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, officially launched their campaign to garner public attention.
BBF first vice president and men's national team head coach, Mario Bowleg, said the entire country should take advantage of the current talent pool, but in order to orchestrate that effort, financial assistance is needed.
"I'm asking sponsors to please come on board. The time is now and we need you Bahamas. This could be the first time that the Bahamas places a team discipline in the Olympics and I'm very confident as head coach of this team, - assisted by Kevin Johnson, Wayde Watson, and Norris Bain - that we have the tools, wisdom, knowledge, and understanding to lead us to where we need to be. The best players we have at this time have already made the commitment but it cannot be done unless the corporate Bahamas can assist and sponsor us," he said. "The team has been practicing since the summer and we will continue to train. The team, coaches, and administration strongly believe it is our time. Yes, we have guys like Buddy Hield, DeAndre Ayton, and Magnum Rolle but we cannot get this done unless we can get them home, put them up and treat them the way they need to be treated. This is not the federation's team, this is the Bahamas' team and we should all work toward this effort."
The Bahamas will travel to face Canada in the first round of qualification games on November 24 at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Eighty teams are vying for the 19 spots at the FIBA World Cup 2019.
Other teams in Group D include the US Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic.
The Bahamas will play their first home game on November 27 against the US Virgin Islands.
Then on Thursday, February 22, the Bahamas will host the Dominican Republic and Canada on Sunday, February 25.
Their final two games will be on the road on Friday, June 29 in the US Virgin Islands and Monday, July 2 in the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican Republic is the top-ranked team in the group based on the FIBA World Rankings at 18, Canada follows at 24 and the Virgin Islands are No.59.
The Bahamas' top names have committed to the event, given the accommodations, the new format provides with different windows of play staggered months apart.
"When the guys look amongst themselves and see that most of them are in their prime. It's very easy for them to look at the region and knowing what we have now stacked against that region along with the window of these games, we are in a better position than most countries. The NBA and NCAA players will be available for the window and June so we will be able to put our best team on the floor," Bowleg said.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Michael Pintard said the Bahamas could be on the brink of history with the proper infrastructure in place.
"I'd like to appeal to the corporate community to come on board and play a role in the making of history. The Government of the Bahamas is contributing financially to this effort but our resources alone will not be sufficient to assist our team in doing something that is going to be quite remarkable," he said. "So we are appealing to the corporate community to partner with the government and federation to ensure that our athletes come home, they train, they travel to the away games and come and participate in the games that will be held in the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium. I thank the athletes for their sacrifice and we want the Bahamian public to come out in record numbers to support history in the making."
Group C will comprise of Mexico, Puerto Rico, United States and Cuba. Group A will comprise of Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Panama. Group B will include Venezuela, Chile and Colombia.
The top seven teams in the Americas Region will advance. "We have a unique opportunity. I believe that the Bahamas has a stellar record of competing at the highest level in basketball in various leagues around the globe," Pintard said. "So the athletes that are competing over the next few months are standing on the shoulders of a number of basketball giants from the Bahamas who have played a role not only on the court competing for the Bahamas and being excellent ambassadors but they have played an incredible role in the community mentoring hundreds of Bahamians athletes in general and basketball players in particular."
FIBA's Sub-Zone CONCENCABA (Central American and the Caribbean) voted and approved the cancellation of the Pre-Qualifier tournament that was set to be played last July in Bolivia and the Bahamas was one of three teams affected.
The sixth and seventh place teams from both Centrobasket (Bahamas, Cuba) and South American Championships (Chile and Paraguay) were then slated to complete the 16-team field for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers. "The beauty of this arrangement is that for the first time ever we are able to bring in all of our players from around the world. We are very optimistic that this format will suit us very well," said BBF Secretary Clifford Rahming. "The first step is to make it to the World Cup held in China in 2019 and once we do well we will hopefully move on to the Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo."