Easy draw for Bajans
At least Barbados should get out of the group stages this time.
The country’s senior men’s basketball team couldn’t have asked for an easier draw, having been pooled with regional lightweights Bermuda and Montserrat for next summer’s revamped regional tournament in Suriname.
Montserrat and Bermuda are part of a generally weak Group B that also features perennial semi-finalists Antigua and Barbuda and big unknowns Haiti in June’s rebranded FIBA AmeriCup Caribbean pre-qualifiers.
“Haiti is a huge question mark because I don’t know their history very well and no one really sees them at this level, so it may by a case where they are now starting their programme or bringing a big team to contend with. We won’t know until we see them,” said head coach Nigel Lloyd.
“But yeah, our group doesn’t seem as hard as it has been in the past, but at the same time, we haven’t been playing our best basketball of recent, so we have to get back to that.
“Hopefully, everyone will be available to play in June, which also hasn’t been the case for us recently. Once we get our best players playing the basketball that we should be playing, then I don’t see why we can’t get out of our group,” he added.
Barbados should still start as odds-on favourites to win the group with a team likely built around the nucleus of overseas-based pros Andre Lockhart, Kregg Jones and John Jones, alongside seasoned campaigners Jeremy Gill, Akeem Marsh and Keefe Birkett.
But even with these players, the senior side has struggled mightily of recent, failing to advance out of the group stages at the last four tournaments, including a historically low seventh-place showing in Tortola.
And the squad is an aging one that will have to shake off the rust of not playing a regional competition since 2015.
At least the team has managed to avoid a very competitive Group A that is led by St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Guyana – three teams that have all beaten Barbados in either of the last two tournaments.
And dodging that group is likely pivotal to the squad’s chances, as only the top two teams at the tournament will earn automatic spots to advance to another qualifying round.
That competition is set to include six other teams and will be played on a home and away basis, where the top four teams then progress to a 16-team Division A competition featuring World and Olympic champions United States, Canada and the top five teams from the previous Centrobasket competition.
The initial stages of the Division A tournament will also be played in a home and away format in four groups of four before the top three teams in each group advance to the second stage of the competition.
Those 12 teams are slated to be separated into two groups, where the three best teams of each group and the best fourth-placed team advance to the 2021 FIBA World Cup.
Next year’s FIBA AmeriCup Caribbean pre-qualifiers will run from June 25 to 29. (JM)