By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
THE Bahamian 1-2 punch of Deyton Albury and Garreth Edgecombe helped the Defenders 2020 to split their four games at the Phenom Challenge over the weekend in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
The team, with Bahamian Jamal Smith as an assistant coach, played out of pool E where they finished with a 2-2 win-loss record in the four games they played at the Rock Hill Sports & Event Center.
In their opener on Friday, they lost 79-76 to the Charlotte Royals 2021. They came back on Saturday to win their double header, 99-87 over Team Synergy 2021 and 73-70 in overtime against Team Durham 2021 before they fell 84-71 to the TLBA 2022 in their finale on Sunday.
Smith, who formerly coached both Albury and Edgecombe, both 18 years old, when they played for the Temple Christian Suns, said both players played extremely well despite encountering some minor injuries.
Edgecombe, a 6-foot, 3-inch forward, had a left elbow injury in their second game, while Albury, a 6-2 guard, went down with an right ankle injury in their last game.
“The competition level was definitely higher than the previous week,” Smith said. “In the first game, I felt we didn’t match the energy of our opponents, but in the next two games, we stepped it up.
“Overall, with their performances, I would say that each and every game they got better with their performances. The work that they are putting in during practice and watching and studying the films is paying off. The work they do on their own to manage their presence on the court has helped them tremendously.”
Albury, producing his best game with 30 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, said this was probably the toughest tournament they played in so far. “It was a good weekend. We had a lot of exposure and stuff like that,” said Albury, who just recently graduated from Sunrise Christian Academy in Bel Aire, Kansas where he starred in basketball and football after he left Temple Christian two years ago.
“Most of the division one players were around my position so it was good to match up against them. Although you are playing against them, it’s still good to learn from them and what to do in certain situations when you get to the division one level.”
In his best game where he came up with 10 points in their second game as well, when he suffered the injury, Edgecombe said if he hadn’t suffered the injury, he could have done better.
“I still felt we did good even though we both had some injuries that held us back from performing 100 per cent,” said Edgecombe, a graduate of Galilee Academy.
“Although we pushed through it, I felt we did very good. I feel like the most we play as a team, the better we get. We have one more tournament coming up, so I feel like the way we are playing, we should do very well.”
The Defenders, who have been playing in the AAU Tournaments since July, will have this week off before they play in their final showcase next weekend in the Big Shots Summer Classic in South Carolina.
“The following weekend, schools are expected to open so you will see a lot of these players for the final time next weekend as they prepare to transit to their respective schools,” Smith said.
“So I expect this to be a very competitive event that will be watched by a number of collegiate coaches from division one and two as well as junior colleges. I believe the recruitment for both Deyton and Garrett will just shoot off.”
Smith said Albury has already received offers from three division one schools, but they are still looking at all of their options as to where he will end up in 2021 after he plays, along with Edgecombe, in a prep college programme this year.
As for the protocol measures taken for the coronavirus, Edgecombe said he’s pleased with the way the organisers have ensured their safety. “They are taking precautions by marking out where people can sit, they make sure everybody has on their masks and they sanitise all of the doors,” he said. “I feel very secure with the measures they are using.”
And Albury agreed that the protocol measures are strictly adhered to. “After every game, we have to sanitise our hands and we have to walk around with our masks on,” he stated. “After games, you don’t get to handshake anymore, so that is something too that we have to deal with.”
Both noted that they are living out their dreams of playing basketball, even if it is under some adverse conditions in the new norm as sports slowly makes it way back after taking a break in March due to Covid-19.