Fresh faces, but Bajans out to make mark
WHETHER SUCCESSFUL or not, Barbados can count on being one thing at the upcoming regional tournament.
The national programme’s overhaul is starting to take shape as five rookies, including fast-rising forward John Jones, are set to take the floor in the ultramarine and gold for Barbados’ return to the men’s Caribbean Basketball Confederation Championships in Tortola, early next month.
The final 12-man roster, highlighted by debutants Keefe Birkett, Mark Bridgeman, Stefan Clarke and Rahiim Gibbons, was released yesterday following Tuesday’s final cut from an initial training squad of 23.
“At the end of the day our success depends on how we play when we get there because it’s not like we’ve had any experience of winning recently anyhow,” said newly-returned head coach Nigel Lloyd.
“So I’m okay with the fact that we are young and inexperienced. Maybe that means they’ll listen more and be even more coachable as they’re green at this level.”
It’s a definite departure from the last touring team in 2009 that featured a largely experienced make-up, with this current squad featuring only one player (Junior Moore) over the age of 30 and a host of others appearing in just their second tournament.
The team still falls short of the 2007 unit that turned out a whopping eight first-timers.
But while unproven, the squad definitely isn’t unpredictable, as local standouts Jeremy Gill, Akeem Marsh, Charles Vanderpool and Ramon Simmons all expectedly took their places alongside collegiate forwards John and Kregg Jones, and overseas-based pro Andre Lockhart.
Easily the country’s best jump-shooter, Birkett was probably unfortunate to have missed out on the 2009 side, while the steady improvement of Bridgeman, Clarke and Gibbons has allowed the talented trio to force their way into the senior squad.
“I’m satisfied that these are the best prospects we have to get it done and these are the men who give us the best chance to win, so now it all depends on the work we put in now and how we execute once we get there,” said Lloyd, himself a former national player.
“I think we should do well because we go 12 deep as I’m not taking any passengers. And at the moment I like how our “bigs” are athletic and run the floor so I expect us to finish inside and rebound well with this group.
“Overall though, I want to get a medal or at least finish in the top four but I know it’s going to be tough because we’re drawn with the hosts BVI and USVI, who both will be looking to bring their best players,” he added.
To advance out of that tough Group B though, Barbados will definitely have to reverse their recent fortunes that include a fifth-place finish and two sixth-place showings in their last three regional competitions.
The squad also has some injury concerns heading into the tournament, as there are apprehensions over Vanderpool’s ailing Achilles tendon, while Lockhart and Gill have some recurring niggles.
However, all three veterans are expected to be fit and ready for tournament play which runs from July 1 to 6.
Squad: Jeremy Gill, Andre Lockhart, Keefe Birkett, Rahiim Gibbons, Stefan Clarke, Ramon Simmons, Junior Moore, John Jones, Kregg Jones, Charles Vanderpool, Akeem Marsh, Mark Bridgeman, Nigel Lloyd (head coach), Derek Browne (assistant).