After missing out on the opportunity to host the second window of the FIBA AmeriCup 2022 Qualifiers in a bubble here, the Bahamas Basketball Federation will now have to secure at least $80,000 to send the men’s national basketball team off to compete.
BBF President Mario Bowleg indicated over the weekend that they applied to both the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture since September with their request to stage the bubble for eight teams in pool C and D at either Atlantis on Paradise Island or Baha Mar, but they didn’t get any commitment until it was too late.
FIBA decided to take the bubble for pool C, comprising Canada, Cuba, Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic to the Dominican Republic with games from November 27 to December 1, while pool D for the Bahamas, the United States, Mexico and Puerto Rico, to Washington during the same dates.
Teams listed in pools A and B - Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay - are all scheduled to play in a bubble in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“From September 9th, based on the number of COVID-19 cases we had, FIBA would have approached the Bahamas to host the bubble for the eight teams in pool B and C,” Bowleg said. “We approached Baha Mar, who was our basic sponsor over the few years.
“The federation also sent out the information to both ministries, particularly the Ministry of Tourism on how we could jumpstart our economy at the end of November. We felt that the Bahamas government would be willing to assist the federation in securing the bubble here.
“We felt it would have been good for the Bahamas because we would have had people back to work at the hotel and all of the $150,000 that it was estimated to host the event here would have stayed in the country.”
FIBA decided to stage the second window in a bubble format as they took into account the health protocols stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. The format allows FIBA to facilitate the implementation of governmental sanitary protocols required by many countries across America’s zone.
The top three teams from each group will qualify for the FIBA AmeriCup 2022, which is the first leg of the qualification process for the 2024 Olympic Games.
By not hosting the bubble, the federation will have to secure about $80,000 to fund the team that will travel to compete in Washington where they will also have to pay for their COVID-19 testing before and during the games played in the bubble in Washington at a price of about $120 per person, including all players, coaches, management and medical staff.
“We’ve had several meetings with head coach Chris DeMarco, who will be coaching the team along with Norris Bain and Perry Thompson Jr and we are now looking at who is available,” Bowleg pointed out.
“We have some players who are based in the United States who didn’t go back to Europe because of COVID-19, which will help cut down on the ticket prices. We still plan on bringing in one or two from Europe, so we feel we have a good change of putting together a good team to compete in this round.”
Bowleg said their priority as the second ranked team in their pool is to win or at least split their two games against Puerto Rico, which would allow them to be in a better position when they play their home game here in February in their bid to advance to the FIBA AmeriCup 2022.
“By then, we are hoping that we can host the bubble where we can have the teams come in,” Bowleg said. “We know the financial strain that the country is in as a result of the pandemic, but if we had a chance to host the bubble next month, it would have helped us out in an economic crisis.
“We would have been about to televise the games, which would have provided an opportunity for advertisements, letting people know that the Bahamas was open back up for business. The door, however, is closed for us to host the bubble next month.
“The only thing I can do now is to ensure that we send the team off to compete to represent us as a country. This is a good opportunity for us to start qualifying for the 2024 Olympics while we have players like Deandre Ayton and Chavano “Buddy” Hield in their prime. So we have to find the funds for the team to travel.”
Once they can obtain their annual grant from the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and solicit the sponsorship from corporate Bahamas, Bowleg said they can achieve their goal.
“With only the top three teams in each pool advancing, we can’t allow Puerto Rico to beat us out,” Bowleg stated. “If we lose both games to them, we automatically drop into the fourth spot. So we have to make sure that they don’t beat us.
“We know we have some prime time teams like the United States and Puerto Rico, but we believe that with the team we can assemble, we can qualify. We just need the funding since we couldn’t host the bubble, to get the team off to compete before we host the home games next year.”