World Cup Qualifiers: Lineup changes for men's national team

By BRENT STUBBS

Senior Sports Reporter

bstubbs@tribunemedia.net

AFTER losing the first two games last year in the FIBA Americas Qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup, Bahamas Basketball Federation vice president Mario Bowleg said the coaching staff will be making changes to the lineup for the second round next month.

The Bahamas is currently sitting at the bottom of the four-team pile with a 0-2 win-loss record, having lost on the road to Canada 93-69 on November 24 and 93-85 here at home against the Virgin Islands on November 27.

The federation will host the Dominican Republic on Thursday, February 22 and Canada on Sunday, February 25 in the home-and-away series of games to determine who will advance to the World Cup in China from August 31 to September 15, 2019.

The Bahamas started out as one of the 16 teams in the Americas region that have been placed in four different pools. However, only the top seven teams out of the Americas will advance to the World Cup.

Entered in Group D with the Bahamas are the Dominican Republic, who is 2-0, Canada 1-1 and the Virgin Islands, also 1-1.

Bowleg, who also serves as the head coach for Team Bahamas, said the federation has been looking at a number of players who have made a commitment to play in the round next month.

"There will be an adjustment made to the roster to try and compete against the Dominican Republic, who we feel is the better team in the pool, along with Canada, who is also coming in February," said Bowleg.

"We are continuing to watch those films and make sure that we put the right team together that can match up with them."

Reflecting on what he felt went wrong in the first two games, Bowleg said they lacked the defensive prowess to stay in the games.

"We are also looking at persons who shoot the ball, get to the basket and break down our opponent's defense and allow our shooters to knock down the shots," he proclaimed.

"So we are making some changes that would allow players to get off the ball screen and to try and get some players who can defend better, especially in the guard positions."

Players such as forwards Kadeem Coleby and Magmum Rolle as well as guards Marvin Gray, CJ Hinds and Ray Rose are just some of the players Bowleg intent to insert into the line-up.

"Those guys all played together three years ago when we won the gold and they are still in their 30s, so they can still play basketball," Bowleg disclosed. "So we hope to have some veteran players in there along with some of our up and coming young stars."

As the federation prepare to host the two games, Bowleg said the Bahamas will be in the same predicament as their peers as all of their professional players won't be available until a few days before the games are played.

"FIBA has made every professional league stop at a certain time," he said. "No country is at an advantage or disadvantage. All of the players will be going home after their last scheduled game.

"FIBA is not going to keep these players away from their clubs, which is paying them, to come home and miss a game. That is not what FIBA is about. FIBA has agreed to stop the game to allow a certain window for the players to get home in time to get in at least two practices a day before they play."

Bowleg said the good thing is that the system that the coaches run doesn't change. It's just a matter of implementing them with the players when they come out to practice.

"These players whom we are trying to bring back home, they know my system. They have played for me before," Bowleg stressed. "This is technology age. You send the plays to them and they study them before they get here and when they get here, we implement the system."

Based on the group of players he had to work with in November, Bowleg said his coaching staff had a combination that didn't know each other.

"But these players who we are trying to put together have played together before so we know that they are going to be coming here in shape, so we just have to get them ready to go," he projected.

Bowleg assured the public that they can come out both nights and be entertained by a much better national team next month.

"Sometimes you play up to your expectations, but you don't cry over spill milk," he stated. "We played poorly and we lost. We have to move past that and get ready for the next round.

"We knew that the Bahamas was and continue to be and even when we put this team on the floor in February will be better than we did. WE had to go with what was best at the time. But we will have a better showing than what the public saw in November."

The February double header will be held in conjunction with the prestigious Huge Campbell Basketball Classic that will run from February 22-29.

"There has been collaboration with the Bahamas Basketball Federation and the Huge Campbell organizers where their games will be finished on the two days to allow the nation to come and watch the national team play," Bowleg revealed.

"We have already made a deal that will allow them to include our games on their schedule. We believe that the basketball fans will have a chance to watch both tournaments at the same time."

On those two days, the two tournaments will play at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium so that as soon as the Huge Campbell games are completed, the World Cup qualifier will get underway.

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