By Marcos Mejias
SINCE he was very young, Buddy Hield knew that to improve his game he would have to face a superior level. For this reason, he took the decision of leaving the Bahamas, but he has never forgotten his roots.
The Sacramento Kings' shooting guard is back with the Bahamas' national team for the third qualifying window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup China 2019. The last time that Hield played for his country was at the 2014 Centrobasket, and a lot has happened since that moment.
He is no longer a college ball player - now he is a regular in the demanding NBA league.
Born in the city of Freeport, Hield stood out since he was very young in his country's basketball. He managed a variety of individual achievements and was destined to be a great promise for Bahamian basketball. But to achieve his dream, Hield took the decision of moving to the United States to develop his game.
"Every basketball player who has a dream, be them from the islands or the rest of the world, they want to go to America to be at a higher level of basketball training. You want to be where the best basketball's at, that's the only way to get ready. If you have weak competition, you're not going to get better," said Hield to FIBA.basketball.
"That was my dream, to be in the best competition every night and the best I could get of myself. That was able to get me the chance to go to school and pursue my dreams," added Hield, who has a very tight-knit relationship with his mother.
Hield uses retired player Kobe Bryant to take more seriously his work as a basketball player. He watched how Bryant electrified each venue he visited and that became the motivation for the 24-year-old.
"Just watching the game, watching Kobe Bryant. Seeing how much he loved the game and how much he put on... the fun, the fans, everything. This is what I do, this is my passion. I thank God for allowing me to have the opportunity."
Hield went to study at the Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas and was then recruited by the Oklahoma Sooners for collegiate basketball. He played all four years of college level, something rare for players with good performance. As every season came and went, he improved his game --to the point of averaging 25.0 points and 5.7 rebounds in his last year with the Sooners.
Hield wishes that this experience serves as an example for the youngsters that are taking their first steps in Bahamian basketball.
"It was an opportunity to play better, a great opportunity, with great players, and you want to learn from the best. We want to give kids in the Bahamas a chance to know that anything is possible, that you have to believe in working hard and if you put God first, you can make it. You just got to go there and execute and have fun. If you fail, you fail, but you go out feeling big because you had the opportunity to do it," added the 6'4" player.
After his stay at Oklahoma, Hield was the sixth pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, getting called by the New Orleans Pelicans. During his first campaign he was exchanged to the Kings.
For next season, Hield will have a compatriot in the United States League, with the draft of promising centre DeAndre Ayton. The 19-year old big man was the Draft's first pick by the Phoenix Suns. Because of his rookie commitments, Ayton could not play this window with the Bahamas, but in the future, the national team will be able to have an inside and outside attack force thanks to Ayton and Hield.
"It's really important. It's all about having pride for your country. Hopefully we have guys like DeAndre Ayton that will belong to the team, to get this thing rolling," said Hield, who has a lot of hope that the Bahamas will turn into a strong team for the next international events. "We're going to make a sound. We have to get the pieces together in the right time. Everybody's busy, like DeAndre with the Draft. We just gotta go there, execute, have fun and play for each other," Hield said.
It's not new that the Bahamas has outstanding basketball players. Many years before Hield and Ayton were born, the country saw how Mychal Thompson was the first pick of the 1978 NBA Draft, and won two titles with the Los Angeles Lakers.
These cases are evidence that there's talent in the Bahamas and Hield gave the key for developing more first-class players.
"Better training. Once you have guys and people who know how to work with kids, we all can get on one page and get better. There's a lot of talent here. It's hard to go from the Bahamas to America and play. [We need] better training and better opportunities," Hield said, assuring that he will continue to wear the uniform of his national team. "For sure. The goal is to keep representing the country and try to get the limit."