NCAA: Bahamian players bond in exhibition games


Sports Reporter


WE may still be months away from the NCAA basketball season, but several Bahamian players had the opportunity to travel with their programmes this summer as they prepare for the 2015-16 campaign.

Group bonding exercises and exhibition games against local teams highlighted the summer for many Bahamian players, including Tristian Curtis, Lourawls Nairn Jr, Tavario Miller, Danrad Knowles and LJ Rose.

Tristian Curtis and the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers travelled to Havana, Cuba, to face off against the Cuban national team in a three-game series.

An improved relationship in foreign policy between the United States and Cuba was played out on the basketball court, in the first time an NCAA Division I basketball team has ever played in Cuba.

The two-time defending Big South champion Chanticleers made the trip to Cuba August 6-14.

In addition to competing against the Cubans, Coastal student-athletes and coaches conducted clinics for players and coaches in Havana and Matanzas and participated in various community service programmes as they toured the nation.

Curtis was one of several players on the roster to keep a diary of the experiences on the trip where the Chanticleers went 3-1.

In one particular entry, Curtis detailed a typical day on the agenda for the team both on and off the floor.

Curtis said: “What an amazing experience today was. The day started with breakfast at about 9:30am, following a salsa lesson by a world renowned salsa instructor by the name of Noye. She is known all around Europe and Latin America for her teachings. We were all partnered up with a Cuban professional salsa dancer where we all took part in learning salsa. It was quite fun in my opinion because I love dancing and having fun, so now, I can add salsa to my repertoire. When the salsa lesson was done, we all went to eat our pregame meal at 12:30pm after which we departed for our second game. Game two didn’t go as we planned. Unfortunately we lost by a considerably large amount, however, I do feel as though our team is getting better and better as the games progress.

“On another note, one observation that I have noticed about the Cuban people is that regardless of their financial situation or whatever it may be, they are very happy and extremely friendly people. This trip is truly an eye-opening and humbling experience considering that though they may seem to have little, they are still very grateful and thankful for what they have. It is teaching me even more to be grateful for the opportunities that I have and for the position I’m in in my life. I recommend that if you have a chance to visit Cuba, you should because it is an absolutely beautiful place especially with the beautiful architecture of the buildings and that all the 1950s cars are kept in working order. You would think that these cars are brand new. Overall, it is a wonderful trip and I’m enjoying every minute of it.”

Curtis, the incoming senior, finished last season averaging 4.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game and shot 54 per cent from the field.

The 6’7” forward is one of four returning starters from last year’s team.

Lourawls Nairn and the Michigan State Spartans spent time in Italy on a similar tour with basketball played out alongside great cultural and educational experiences. They spent the 11-day trip in five cities.

Nairn took on a greater role as the sole true point guard in the quartet of exhibitions.

After opening the tour with a 98-54 victory over Basket Fiorentina, a new professional team in Florence, the Spartans lost to the Russian senior national team, 93-75, the Italian nationals, 90-69, and the national team of Georgia, 71-70.

“We’ve got a lot of different guys this year, different personalities, but I think this trip definitely helped us jell,” team captain Denzel Valentine said. “We all roomed with somebody we didn’t get a chance to have a relationship before, so I think this trip was very good for building these relationships.”

With all the accolades he received during the Michigan State Spartans’ run at the Final Four, there remains one major question mark regarding Bahamian guard Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr - his ability on the offensive end.

During the offseason, Nairn is making an effort to shore up those concerns by dedicating much of the summer to improving his jumpshot.

In an interview with mlive.com, Nairn outlined his workout regimen, which has included putting up approximately 1,000 shots per day.

He promised to display that improvement in his upcoming sophomore season with renewed confidence. “I know this year there won’t be any question that I’m going to shoot the ball. It’s just confidence. I’m the most confident I’ve ever been in my life in my game, and nobody or nothing can stop me from being confident,” Nairn told mlive’s Kyle Austin.

“I know I put in a lot of work and I’m going to trust it whether I miss or make shots. “That’s a major part of basketball, and I don’t think nothing or nobody can take that away from me. “I was focusing more on one specific thing, and just trying to get better, pushing myself as hard as I can after it.”

Nairn averaged 2.2 points, 2.4 assists and 1.6 rebounds in just over 19 minutes per game for the Spartans in his freshman season.

Tavario Miller and the Texas A and M Aggies spent time on a 10-day European tour which spanned several countries.

During the trip, the Aggies visited the Italian cities of Rome, Latina, Sorrento and Pompeii before concluding the voyage in Athens, Greece.

Aggies head coach Billy Kennedy, said the trip gave the team a chance to bond while experiencing the rich cultural heritage of the region.

The first was a 74-49 loss to the Nigerian national team play in four exhibition contests, the first coming on August 15 against the Nigeria national team in Rome and followed with a 103-69 win over the Latina All-Stars.

Miller was one of 12 Aggies in double figures, with 10 points, in a 79-37 win over the  Athens All-Stars. They concluded with a 71-69 win over Mega Leks out of Serbia.

An incoming junior, the postseason run for Miller and the Aggies came to an end in the National Invitational Tournament quarter-final.

As a sophomore, Miller improved his production and had several career highs.

In a November win over the Northwestern St Demons, Miller set a new career-high with 15 points on 6-6 shooting from the field and also added six rebounds.

On the regular season he averaged 2.7 points and three rebounds per game.

Danrad Knowles and LJ Rose travelled with their Houston Cougars on a 10-day Chinese tour. Houston finished the tour with a 3-1 record.

The Cougars return six lettermen and four starters from last year’s team, which recorded 13 wins and knocked off defending national champion UConn inside Hofheinz Pavilion for the second consecutive year.

Last season, the Cougars fell in the second round of their conference tournament and did not advance to the NCAA tournament.

Knowles, the junior forward, ranked third on the team in both scoring and rebounding.

NCAA rules allow for a foreign tour by an intercollegiate team once every four academic years.


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