By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
THE Bahamas Basketball Federation men’s national basketball team will have their hands full this weekend when they host the Dominican Republic and Canada in the second leg of the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium.
The team, coached by Mario Bowleg, is coming off two losses in the first leg in Group D after dropping a 93-69 blowout to Canada on November 24 in Halifax, Canada, before coming home and suffering a 93-85 decision to the Virgin Islands on Sunday, November 26, in the home-and-away series of games.
The Bahamas is scheduled to host the Dominican Republic at 8pm on Thursday after Canada plays the Virgin Islands at 4:30pm at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium. Then on Sunday, the Virgin Islands will play the Dominican Republic at 4:30pm and the Bahamas faces Canada at 8 pm.
In preparation for the games, Bowleg said there will be some adjustments to Team Bahamas, which he contends will be much better defensively than the team they had for the first two games in November.
“We are going to be pretty good. I think we will have a better defensive team and a more oiled offensive team,” said Bowleg, who is expected to be assisted by Wayde Watson, Norris Bain and Quinton ‘Three Ounce’ Hall. “We have persons who I feel can put the ball in the hole. We will be adding Eugene Bain and Johnathan Fairwell will get a chance to play, so we will have some players who can score. We will also have CJ Hinds, who led the CBC in scoring a few times, so we have a few guys to go along with Keno Burrows, who was leading us in scoring in the last two games. We will have more options to go too, which will be good for us in the long run.”
Bowleg said they will also be looking at Leon Cooper and Shavarro Cooper coming in and making a difference with players like Robert Northman, who can defend the ball and give the team a better chance defensively so they can slow down their opponents and then go after their shots.
“I like our chances right now with this group that we are trying to put together,” Bowleg stressed.
Over the next few days, Bowleg said they will have 15 players in practice trying to make the final 12-man roster before they take to the court against the Dominican Republic on Thursday. The other players not mentioned are Michael Carey Jr, Able Joseph, Michael Bain Jr, David Nesbitt, Christopher Turnquest, Kentwon Smith, Franco Miller, Marvin Gray and Lynden Rose.
“With that 15, I think we can pick a very good 12 to represent us,” Bowleg said. “We play very poorly defensively in the last two games and so I’ve given Norris Bain the task of leading our defense and he will be working on making sure that we play better. We have done our scouting report on Canada and the Dominican Republic and so we feel confident we will play very well against them.
“I’ve also added Quinton Hall to deal with our offensive attack and he did a very good scouting report, breaking it down for the entire coaching team, so we just have to come together and twixt what we have to do. But I have a very good feeling that we will do very well in two games in this window.”
Based on what he’s seeing, Joseph said the Bahamas should fear even better with the team the coaching staff is putting together.
“It’s going to be a totally different team, so hopefully we will play a whole lot better,” Joseph predicted.
As for his performance, which he admitted wasn’t up to par, Joseph said he’s coming with his A-game.
“The last two games in the first window, I was trying to get used to the new players, but this is a different team and a lot of the guys coming in, I’ve played with them before so I expect to provide that high flying mentality and scoring ability that I’m known for,” said Joseph, who is home on a break from Holland College in Canada.
In November, Turnquest said he was disappointed that he got cut from the team, but he didn’t allow it to discourage him because he still feel that he can make a contribution to Team Bahamas.
“It’s the pride of your country,” said Turnquest, who came in from Montreal, Canada where he was working on the physical aspect of his game. “I play basketball for the love of my country so after I got cut, I only got more drive to come back and try and make the team again. I don’t believe they can keep a good man down.”
Turnquest, a 34-year-old and 6-feet, 10-inches forward/center, said he realize that the team lacked some seniority and that is what he hope to bring to the table.
“We had everything, the youth, the body and the speed, but when you come to play basketball, you can’t function if you are only relying on your body. Your mind will eventually break down,” Turnquest said. “You can be there at a team body wise, but if you are not there are a team in mind, you bond to go down.
“They needed a little more experience and that is what I can provide for the team. This is my life, this is my country and I want only what’s best for the team. I know I can come in and help them out mentally because they need that type of player that can help them out in that regard.”
Bowleg, who will have double duties as the head coach of the CC Sweeting Cobras during the prestigious Hugh Campbell Basketball Classic, said the fans will have a treat this week as they get to watch both the high school and the international basketball tournaments.
In fact, the Hugh Campbell organizers and the BBF and FIBA have worked out a deal where the fans will get to watch both tournaments on Sunday at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium.
“It’s going to cost the fan base to split and we spoke to FIBA about that because we can’t say to Hugh Campbell don’t have your games,” said Bowleg, who also serves as the first vice president of the BBF, headed by Charlie ‘Softly’ Robins. “What we will do is allow them to play straight through on Thursday at AF Adderley when we play at Kendal Isaacs.
“However, the schedule is set on Sunday where the two tournaments will come together and play at Kendal Issacs Gymnasium. They will play their final four games and then we will have the two FIBA World Cup games. The fans can pay a price of $10 and watch four great games, the Hugh Campbell final four and the two World Cup qualifiers. So you can’t ask for nothing more than that.”
Tickets are priced at $25 for VIP, $10 for general admission and $5 for children both nights.