By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
WHILE the men’s national basketball team is preparing to play the US Virgin Islands tonight, the focus will be on their home game on Monday night against the Dominican Republic at the Baha Mar resort.
The Bahamas Basketball Federation, in conjunction with Baha Mar and Oak Tree Medical Center, the principal sponsors, released the names of the players yesterday and encouraged the public to come out and cheer for them in their bid to qualify for the World Cup.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Mario Bowleg, who served previously as both the president of the BBF and the men’s national coach, said during the press conference yesterday at Baha Mar that the team only needs to win one of these two games in order to qualify.
Federation secretary-general Jurelle Nairn-Mullings, who conducted the press conference, said Team Bahamas, with a highly accredited coaching staff that includes Chris DeMarco of the Golden State Warriors, Grand Bahamian Yolett McPhee- McCuin, the head coach of Ole Miss women’s team, Mikhail McLean, an assistant coach at the University of Houston and Steve Barnes, encouraged the Bahamian public to come out and watch a fantastic show on Monday night in what will be a pre-Independence celebration.
Baha Mar’s senior vice president Robert Sands said they were delighted when they got the call from Bowleg less than 10 days ago to make it happen, they got the wheels in motion to make the venue a world-class facility.
“Sports tourism is an integral part of the marketing that we have here at Baha Mar and will continue to propel the Bahamas as a leading sporting destination and also as a leading tourism destination,” Sands said as he congratulated the BBF, the team and its principal sponsors for including Baha Mar in this venture.
Kristi Deveaux, chief executive officer of the Oak Tree Medical Center and a former junior national team member, said when Oak Tree was invited by the federation to sponsor the event, they could not have turned down the offer, especially with their presence at the press conference on her husband’s birthday. She noted that Dr Deveaux, the medical director at Oak Tree, joined her in wishing the team every success and they look forward to watching coach McPhee make history on the sidelines as the first female to coach the national team.
“Oak Tree is delighted to be here and we invite everybody to come out with their Bahamian flag to cheer on the Bahamian team,” she said.
Moses Johnson, a coach on the men’s national team, announced the team that is currently competing in the US Virgin Islands tonight before they come home and take on the Dominican Republic on Monday.
The players are - Deyton Albury - guard; Dominick Bridgewater - guard; Jaron Cornish - guard; Joshua Dames - guard; Radshad Davis - guard/ forward; Shaquilio Fritz - center; Buddy Hield - guard; Danrad Knowles - forward; Zane Knowles - center; Franco Miller Jr. - guard; Travis Munnings - forward; David Nesbitt - forward; Kentwan Smith - forward and Mychel Thompson - forward.
It was hoped that both NBA players Deandre Ayton, who is with the Phoenix Suns and Kai Jones of the Charlotte Hornets, would have suited up for this window, but both players passed up the opportunity because of prior commitments.
The other members of the management team are LJ Rose, the director of basketball operations, Rodney Wilson as the head of delegation, Eugenia Patton and Alicia Greene as the athletic trainers and John Nutt as the public relations officer.
Federation president Eugene Horton, who thanked Nairn and her team for the job they did in getting everything set up for the game, said the World Cup qualifier is an opportunity to get the Bahamas qualified for the next level.
He noted that the inclusion of McPhee-McQuin as an assistant coach speaks of the power of women in sports and they are confident that she will be a valuable asset to the team.
Horton also thanked both the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture for their involvement and participation in the promotion of the sport on the international scene.
Bowleg said if the team can win one of these two games, they will qualify for the first time for the World Cup, and he thanked both Baha Mar and the Oak Tree Medical Center for partnering with the federation to make the journey possible.
When he was coaching the team, Bowleg said he predicted that he would be in an administrative role when the team is on the verge of qualifying for the World Cup, but he never envisioned he would have been a politician.
“I’m proud to be the Minister of Sports and on Monday, I’m asking all Bahamians to come out and see this team with a high qualified coach in Yolett McPhee- McCuin and players like Buddy Hield, so let’s come out and support this team,” Bowleg said.
Both McPhee-McCuin and Hield addressed the media via Skype from where the team was getting ready to face the US Virgin Islands tonight.
“A lot of sacrifices have been made by these young men and the coaches and supporting staff,” she said. “I think this is a good opportunity for basketball in the Bahamas to move forward.”
Although track and field is considered the national flag carrier, McPhee-McCuin said basketball has a number of talented players who can make the sport a very competitive one and she’s just grateful to be a part of it.
As for Hield, the Grand Bahamian native said he’s excited about coming home and playing in front of the Bahamian crowd.
He thanked Baha Mar and Oak Tree for stepping up as sponsors and he encouraged the Bahamian fans to come out and watch an exciting game against Dominican Republic.
Nairn-Mullings reminded everyone that tickets are priced at $30 for general admission, $60 for VIP and $250 for platinum, and are still available at BBFbasketball.com as well as onsite on game day, but she advised persons to get their tickets early and be in attendance in their Bahamian national colours to cheer on Team Bahamas. The doors open at 6pm on Monday and the tip off is at 7pm.