The Bahamas Basketball Federation received its first funding to secure travel to the FIBA AmeriCup 2022 Qualifiers but federation president Mario Bowleg said the efforts may be hollow if the team is unable to adequately prepare for competition.
The Bahamas Olympic Committee’s Athlete Welfare Commission pledged a total of $30,000 and presented the BBF with the first of two $15,000 cheques yesterday, the second of which will be delivered in three weeks, according to BOC President Romell Knowles.
The federation has earmarked a goal of $80,000 for the senior men’s national team to travel to FIBA’s “clean site” in Puerto Rico from November 27 to December 1, 2020.
“The pandemic has impacted the worldwide economy and here in the Bahamas most of our major sponsors have been closed. That is why the federation is seeking 80k to make this trip possible. We are elated that the BOC was the first to come on to assist us with some funding to ensure that we make this trip possible.
“We want to thank the BOC for their dedicated commitment to all federations in the Bahamas,” Bowleg said.
“I will continue to write to the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture seeking our annual grant. If that comes through we should be able to make this trip and we are also seeking sponsorship outside of the country.
“We know these are hard times but we are advertising the Bahamas and we look ahead to a possible situation where we could make the Olympics, which could be an investment worth millions of dollars. We have our best players available for this window so whatever it takes to make it necessary for us as a federation, we look to do that.”
Despite the step forward in funding, Bowleg said he continues to appeal to the competent authority to grant prospective team members the use of the facilities so that they can adequately prepare for the upcoming event.
Under the current Emergency Orders, gyms in New Providence remain closed until further notice.
“The BBF has about six players here locally who do not have the opportunity to use facilities at Kendal Isaacs or even one of the local high school gyms to prepare themselves.
“We have written to the competent authority, and have requested permission, but the facilities are still unable to be used at this time. Based on FIBA protocols for the pandemic, we have put those in place to ensure that our athletes are tested prior to training camp, but for some reason, I have not been able to get a favourable response from the competent authority as to the reason why we, preparing a national team to represent the country, do not have access to the facilities, and the competition is within the next five weeks.
“So I am still waiting on a report. The last report I got from the Director of Sports was that ‘COVID is not done.’ I don’t know if that’s his authority or if it was passed on from the competent authority. We are appealing again because it is the country’s team - not the federation’s team, not the BOC’s team - but it represents all Bahamian citizens, to have an opportunity to train. We want to qualify for the AmeriCup and we want to qualify for the Olympics. In order for this to happen, in order to have a good showing, we must prepare,” Bowleg said.
In Pool D, the Bahamas will face the United States and Puerto Rico, two of the top programmes in the world. In an effort to keep pace with the formidable competition, Bowleg said he will continue to plead the case for the federation’s players to be given exemptions to the current restrictions in place and granted access to the necessary facilities.
“There is no reason why six players and two coaches can’t enter a gym the size of the Kendal Isaacs gymnasium. We don’t want to have full contact play, all we are asking for is to have personal training, conditioning and individual workouts with social distancing protocols in place. Right now the guys are out of shape. They have not been able to use the facilities for quite some time now. They can’t get in the weight room, they can’t get on the court, so we will be entering the competition very underhanded if we can’t get in the gyms to ensure our athletes will be at their best to represent the country. We are hoping to get a favourable response,” he said.
“They are professional athletes. The world has not stopped, it has continued for them. I’m not just speaking for basketball, I don’t see why the track athletes, individuals, can’t train. I was told basketball players can’t get in the gym, track athletes can’t get on the track, swimmers can’t get in the pool. Yes, we want to ensure we flatten this curve and reduce the number of cases but it does not mean we cannot take in some conditioning for our professional and collegiate athletes.”
Bowleg also called for a comprehensive approach for sports to return in some capacity under proper protocols and guidelines to safely work amid the pandemic.
“I think the sporting bodies should come together and sit down with the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture to figure out a way forward. We can see that there are things in place that help other countries around the world to continue sports and allow them to be played in some capacity. They are protocols that can be put in place and we can adapt some of these. There are also non-contact sports that can still be played but the decisions have been made for COVID-19 to shut down sports. There are protocols in place to ensure safety. FIBA has done its job, the federation has done its job, now we are saying to the country to help us by doing their job,” Bowleg said.
“We are hoping they will see the benefit and hopefully the ban will be lifted. It is very frustrating because the guys feel as if they have been sitting too long. We are not going to play Barbados, or the Cayman Islands, we are going to play Puerto Rico and the United States. Those teams are working, they are practicing, they have access to facilities. Our guys that are playing in professional leagues around the world are training and playing. We don’t want to put ourselves in a position where we are down 50 points because we are not conditioned and not prepared.”
According to Bowleg, the federation has established a list of players that have made themselves available during the window - headlined by Chavano “Buddy” Hield of the Sacramento Kings and Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns.
The list thus far also includes Mychel Thompson, Travis Munnings, David Nesbitt, Nathan Bain, D’Shon Taylor, Willis Mackey, Domnick Bridgewater, Jaron Cornish, Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr, Godfrey Rolle, Shaquillo Fritz, Michael Carey Jr, Nashad Mackey, Danrad Knowles, Kentwan Smith, Eugene Bain and JR Cadot.
“That is an A-1 squad that can be put together. Right now we are in second place in this pool. This is the best chance we have to have our NBA players play so we look to secure the win and hopefully we can continue that momentum and secure our spot,” he said.
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.
The BOC formed the Athlete Welfare Commission to assist developing athletes with its “athlete’s first” mandate in mind.
“The Commission continues our efforts to ensure that athletes around the Bahamas are assisted. We believe in the BOC our mandate is simply that athletes are first. In this tough economic time during this COVID-19 pandemic, we continue with the BBF and the commission has ensured that individuals from the BBF will benefit from this programme,” said BOC vice president Roy Colebrook.
“We believe that it is very important that our athletes continue to thrive and to do the best that they can during these tough economic times. We will encourage all athletes out there who can qualify when the time comes through the federations for assistance to please fill out your applications.”
Due to the pandemic, the Ministry of Youth, Sports, and Culture, like other ministries, saw a cut in the funding allocated in the government’s 2020/2021 budget.
In those cuts, subventions to athletes were reduced while Lanisha Rolle informed the nation that every effort would be made to assist the athletes.
BOC President Romell Knowles, however, said the BOC was hard pressed to assist, thus the formation of the Athletes Welfare Commission.
“The inability for athletes to train as freely as they would like has obviously had an impact on their social net worth and their families. I want to thank the IOC through the Olympic Solidarity for investing in the BOC and NOCs around the world by providing us the financial assistance and the resources to be able to assist our athletes,” he said.
“Presently we have six athletes that are on Olympic scholarships that have been extended an extra year through these institutions. From time to time through the WC, when resources become available, we will definitely distribute to the benefit of the athletes. Our mandate is athletes first so we will spare no resources in assisting our athletes, especially in these most difficult times during this COVID-19 pandemic.”