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I can’t believe I’m about to say this but Terry Inniss is right.
All jokes aside, Inniss is a friend of mine whose sporting knowledge I have the utmost respect for.
Yet, it still pains me to admit he’s probably spot on for believing the best way for us to compete is in three-on-three and not full court basketball.
Maybe I’m just overreacting to our girls and boys sweeping the Under-18 International Basketball Federation (IBF) Antilles 3x3 titles. But you really should forgive me considering it’s been 18 long years since we won a championship of any kind in organised basketball.
That’s right. Barbados hasn’t lifted a major trophy since we captured both the men’s and women’s Caribbean Basketball Championships on home soil in 2000, which made me question our overall relevance in the sport.
I missed my first senior men’s tournament in 11 years after I didn’t even bother to apply to go to Suriname this summer. Now there’s hope.
And the thing is, I’m really late to the party because we’ve staged no fewer than six three-on-three tournaments at the junior level over the past two years.
I mean as far back as 2014, my good friend and Caribbean Basketball Confederation president Glyne Clarke was trying to sell me on the reasons our focus has to shift to this shorter, faster version of the game.
But the purist in me was having none of it. After all, I grew up watching basketball being played “the right way” with Coach K and those Christian Laettner Duke teams of the early ’90s.
You just have to throw away the Walkman and enter the 21st century though, because at some point ignoring 3x3 basketball will be akin to refusing to acknowledge T20 cricket.
Whether we want to accept it or not the three-on-three format is a big hit across Europe and Asia with all the massive tours, big money-making tournaments and professional leagues.
So many basketballers worldwide make a living out of this sport to the point where even the professional dunkers now target these leagues and tours to get their paydays.
And that’s a point you really can’t stress enough for a country like Barbados which only has three pro players plying their trade overseas in full court leagues.
The reality is we just don’t produce many big and tall players that are attractive to professional teams, but you don’t necessarily need those types of basketballers to be successful in three-on-three.
That format emphasises shooting more so than rebounding and scoring in the paint, and that’s right down our ABC highway-like alley considering the number of guard-type and perimeter-oriented players we’re producing.
Just look at earlier in the millennium when we had gangly ones like George Haynes, Andre Holder, Mark Bridgeman, Ian Alexander, Ramon Simmons, John Jones and Kregg Jones all out on scholarship and compare that with these times when we have more short guards.
Our changing fortunes are of concern too, because as I mentioned before we haven’t truly competed with the rest of the region in full court basketball for nearly two decades, but all it took was two years before we swept the junior 3x3 titles.
Now with coaches like Adrian Craigwell and Zahir Motara starting these children in basketball at an even younger age they’ll have the requisite skills from earlier to be able to compete in this format.
And like T20 cricket, the faster pace and shorter time frame of three-on-three basketball make the game more appealing to younger generations that are accustomed to getting everything instantly.
It’s also easier to get into the primary schools, who focus so much more on cricket, football, netball and track and field because of how easy it is to stage games and competition at that level.
The age old issue regarding facilities shouldn’t be a problem either as so many professional 3x3 leagues and tournaments are played outdoors in Europe and Asia.
Don’t think for a minute I’m here suggesting we leave full court basketball behind because the global appeal of the NBA and NCAA basketball means that version of the game will never get obsolete.
But even FIBA is telling us that we in this region aren’t relevant in full court basketball anymore or they wouldn’t have us play regional championships every other year.
You wouldn’t believe a world body would marginalise an entire area in their sport.
Then again you wouldn’t believe I’d say Terry Inniss was right either. (JM)