Warm-up against Guyana
Barbados will get that warm-up after all.
International basketball is returning to these shores for the first time in nearly two decades, as regional rivals Guyana are slated to face off against the men’s trial squad in a three-game series next weekend at the Wildey Gym.
Interim Barbados Amateur Basketball Association president Francis Williams made the announcement in a Press release yesterday as the national team prepares for the June 23 start of the FIBA AmeriCup 2021 Caribbean Pre-Qualifier in Suriname.
“Although we’ve been negotiating for a couple months now it’s definitely a godsend because it’s something we wouldn’t have anticipated happening at the start of the year,” explained Williams, who also serves as chairman of the selectors.
“We haven’t had this type of preparation heading into a tournament in so long, so this is really great for the team.
“I would’ve played with [head coach] Nigel Lloyd and we certainly didn’t get this level of preparation so we’re all quite grateful.
Preparation for Suriname
“Guyana is also going on to Suriname, but as we know, they’re right next door so they don’t have to spend as much on travel.
“As such, they had a bit of a surplus and they decided to spend it on coming here to prepare, so it just came down to us deciding what we could and couldn’t do to accommodate everything,” he added.
The two sides are definitely no strangers to each other, having split a pair of head-to-head matchups at the 2014 Caribbean Basketball Championships in Tortola.
Yet the series marks the first time Barbados will play host to regional competition since they won both the men’s and women’s Caribbean Basketball Confederation championships on home soil in 2000.
Neither side has lifted the title since while the men have struggled for more than a decade after failing to make the semi-finals for the last 11 years.
But Barbados are expected to have a real shot at winning the tournament this time around in the absence of regional powerhouses Cuba, United States Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Trinidad and the British Virgin Islands.
At the very least, the senior side should make it out of the group stages, considering the men are pooled with lightweights Bermuda and Montserrat, unknowns Haiti and Antigua and Barbuda.
However, the squad has been dealt a huge blow with the unavailability of overseas-based pro Akeem Marsh and fellow frontcourt starter John Jones.
Yet the return of Andre Lockhart, Kregg Jones and George Haynes is expected to offset their absence.
Lockhart and Haynes have yet to arrive from overseas while the 30-man squad prepares to face its first cut.
“Even if we make our first cut prior to the series we won’t cut the squad right down to 12 for the games against Guyana as we plan to use them as a gauge for the team going forward,” said Williams.
“So we’re hoping for a good turnout from the public at the games to spur the guys on but unfortunately the late announcement in getting the word out there may play a part in that.
“We’re expecting a high standard of play, so hopefully the crowds will come out in anticipation of that,” he added. (JM)