JUST IN: Athletic swingman Justin Pile (left) is one of three newcomers to the senior national senior side. (Picture by Kenmore Bynoe)
Nigel Lloyd sure wasn’t kidding. Barbados’ head basketball coach stuck to his word about going small and fast, having chosen just four big men for next week’s FIBA AmeriCup Qualifier even with the late inclusion of overseas-based pro Akeem Marsh.
It was the biggest takeaway coming out of yesterday’s naming of a final 12-man roster that included three newcomers to the regional level in talented swingmen Saeed Norville, Justin Pile and Kelan Phillips.
Marsh headlines a thin corps of traditional post players that were further boosted by the return of six-foot-nine shot-blocking centre George Haynes, who last played on the senior national side nine years ago.
Jones duo missing
Former league MVP and one-time Defensive Player of the Year Charles Vanderpool and fellow seasoned national veteran Junior Moore are the only other holdovers from a frontcourt group that is missing pro players John Jones and Kregg Jones.
“We were always going to be a small unit but with Marsh boosting the frontline somewhat it gave us the chance to be a bit deeper at some of the other positions,” said Barbados Amateur Basketball Association president and chairman of national selectors Francis Williams.
As such, Barbados further enhanced its perimeter play by adding those three rookies to a very guard-heavy squad led by England-based professional point guard Andre Lockhart, prolific combo guard Jeremy Gill and reigning Premier League MVP Keefe Birkett.
Former national captain Zahir Motara, who previously had retired from national duty, earned a recall to the senior side to join playmaking forward Mark Bridgeman out on the perimeter.
The situation isn’t an ideal one, particularly after starting centre John Jones publicly announced his unavailability via Facebook dueto a myriad of issues relating to the lack of access to indoor venues.
Barbados’ frontcourt then took a further hit after Jones’ fellow overseas-based pro Kregg Jones unexpectedly left national trials to accept a job at a coaching camp in California.
But the outlook didn’t appear as grim after Haynes returned from Oklahoma to fit right into the team’s plans despite the long layoff.
And the situation only got better from there once news broke yesterday that Marsh – arguably the country’s best player – would be available for duty after being released from Australian club Gold Coast Rollers.
“It is great news to have Akeem.
“He has been a big part of what we have done the past few years.
“We always knew it would be tight given his professional schedule, so we are ecstatic that things worked out the way they have,” said Williams
“Watching the team finally gel into their roles after the Guyana series you could tell that one piece was missing and he was it.
“Having Marsh on the team adds a quality big who has performed at national level.
“This is a great thing to have for us moving forward since it helps us achieve the goals we have in place for our basketball,” added Lloyd.
The team leaves for Suriname on Friday and opens play on June 25 in a group that includes Montserrat, Bermuda, Haiti and Antigua and Barbuda. (JM)
SQUAD: Jeremy Gill, Andre Lockhart, Akeem Marsh, Charles Vanderpool, Junior Moore, Keefe Birkett, Mark Bridgeman, George Haynes, Zahir Motara, Saeed Norville, Justin Pile, Kelan Phillips, Nigel Lloyd (head coach), Derek Browne (assistant coach).