Zane Knowles goes up for lay-up as Shaquille Cleare looks on.
By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
With their biggest task ahead of them, the Bahamas Basketball Federation has fielded its best team ever to play the third leg of the FIBA Americas' World Cup qualifier.
The team is already in Puerto Rico for the first of two games on Thursday when they take on the US Virgin Islands in a must-win game by nine or more points in order to keep hopes alive for the second round of the qualifying tournament.
Head coach Mario Bowleg said that the coaching staff, comprising of Norris Bain and Kevin 'KJ' Johnson as well as BBF technical director Steve Barnes and Chris DeMarco, an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors, is still waiting on the arrival of National Basketball Association guard Chavano 'Buddy' Hield.
But he confirmed that Lourawls 'Tum Tum' Nairn, Lynden 'LJ' Rose, Michael Carey Jr, Keno Burrows, Shaquille Cleare, Zane Knowles, Dwight Coleby, Travis Munnings and Jaron Cornish are available. Along with Hield, they are waiting on the arrival today of Kadeem Coleby and Danrad 'Chicken' Knowles.
"The players here are all excited and are looking forward to achieving the goal that we came here for," said Bowleg of qualifying for the next series of games for the 2019 World Cup in Russia.
So far, the Bahamas has been winless in its first four games played, losing 93-69 to Canada in Halifax on Friday, November 24, 93-85 to the US Virgin Islands on November 27 at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium, 96-63 to the Dominican Republic on Thursday, February 22 at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium and 113-67 to Canada at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium.
Bowleg, however, said a lot of the players who didn't participate in those games were sitting on the sidelines and when they got the call, they didn't hesitate to come along and make their contribution to the team's success.
"I think this team is much better than the teams we had for rounds one and two in this set of qualifying games," Bowleg stressed. "As we get to a higher level, we expected more of the collegiate and professional players to be apart of the team.
"And their iQue for the game is much better so they can adjust to the game situations that we put them in. Plus, we have a lot of cohesiveness with a lot of the players having played together in the past," Bowleg stated.
"So I expect that when everybody get here and we go through our final set of work our sessions, we will be much better prepared to take on the US Virgin Islands on Thursday."
Against the US Virgin Island, the Bahamas will need to win by nine or more points to become one of the three teams to advance out of Group D. They will then play the Dominican Republic on Monday.
If they qualify as one of the three teams, Bowleg said the Bahamas will then prepare for the second round of games, scheduled to start in September. But he said this first game on Thursday is more important than any other.
Bowleg said despite the fact that a hurricane passed through Puerto Rico last year, they have recovered to the point where they are ready to host the home and away series at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente Auditorium in San Juan.
"The hotel is very nice. The hurricane damage is not that bad," he pointed out.
The other members of the team are BBF secretary general Clifford 'Spike' Rahmng as head of delegation; Moses Johnson, Rodney Wilson and Elvardo Kemp as the team's manager.