Robert Bailey, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica's men's basketball team will oppose their Canadian counterparts in the opening match of their two-match series at the American Airlines Center today, starting at 7 p.m.
Both teams are using the warm-up games as part of their preparation for the FIBA Americas final-round qualifiers in Venezuela later this month. The second match will be played at the same venue on Saturday.
The Canadians will assemble a strong line-up, which includes National Basketball Association (NBA) players Joel Anthony of back-to-back champions Miami Heat; Cory Josephs of San Antonio Spurs; and Cleveland Cavaliers' Tristan Thompson.
The Jamaicans held their final training session yesterday at the match venue.
"They (Canada) have been talking about having a strong team this year, and I think they are very happy with the team that they have," said Richard Polack, assistant coach of Jamaica. "They have three good NBA players and the rest are European players, and some locals, and so I think it is going to be two very exciting matches."
The Jamaican team, which includes four local-based players, will be led by Europa League-bound and former Cavs player Samardo Samuels.
The four local-based players are Lynford Brown and Adrian Forbes from Spanish Town Spartans, Christopher Walker of Pembroke Hall and Michael Rogers from St Georges Slayers.
Other players in Jamaica's 11-member squad are Garfield Blair, Dyland Ennis, Durand Scott, Adrian Uter, Weymmi Rose and Akeem Scott.
build-up to championships
Polack said both matches form a crucial part of their build-up to the FIBA championships.
"This (series) is very important for our preparations for the tournament because it will give us an opportunity to see how other guys play, and it is also very important for us in terms of the chemistry of the team," said Polack.
"It is also a great build-up for us because for the past three years it's after about three or four games that we really start playing good basketball, and so this will be the first year that we are having some warm-up games moving into a tournament, and I think it is going to benefit us tremendously," he said.
Meanwhile, Patrick Ewing Jr was expected to join Jamaica's team in Canada yesterday.