Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica's national women's basketball team, the 2006 Caribbean champions, is facing a cash crisis less than two weeks before the team is set to depart for the FIBA America's Championships in Mexico.
There, the Jamaicans will try to finish among the top three teams that will automatically qualify for the FIBA World Championships, which acts as a qualifier for the Olympic Games.
But if they are to properly prepare for Mexico, which would enable them to compete effectively, the team, to be led by WNBA champion Simone Edwards, needs an estimated US$50,000, or approximately J$5 million.
Other than Edwards, who had a successful career with the Seattle Storm, the team comprises Monique Salmon, Shenneika Smith, Angelee LaTouche, Tarita Gordon, Vanessa Gidden, and Tajay Ashmeade, among others. Each of these players has represented her respective college, and in the case of Smith, was selected by the New York Liberty in the 2013 WNBA draft.
"A few of these players have been playing for years for Jamaica and they have made a lot of sacrifices because you are asking players to leave their jobs and they are not getting paid. So they are making a lot of sacrifices for their country and they are not getting much in return," Edwards said. "So you have all these players who can compete against these other teams. It's just that they don't have enough time to practise because we don't have enough money to run training camps to prepare for these tournaments."
Some of the money would be required to get locally based players to fly to the United States for training camps, as well as to cover expenses like accommodation once they get to Mexico.
However, that money has been hard to come by.
"It is possible that we could shave that amount down, but right now we have nothing," said Ava Ramdeen, communications director at Team Jamaica Basketball Incorporated, an organisation founded by Enid Angus-Sterling to support the basketball team.
However, it has been struggling to raise money because of the economic situation in the United States.
"We have made approaches to certain groups worldwide and we are waiting to see what they come with, but there is an immediate need," Ramdeen said, noting that they have to pay for the hotel, gym, and insurance for players.
NO HELP FROM THE ASSOCIATION
Not much help is expected from the Jamaica Basketball Association (JaBA), the women say. They said they spoke with JaBA general secretary Marland Nattie, who promised a little help. The JaBA is at present funding the men's basketball team currently campaigning at the FIBA Championships of America.
Nattie said that funds have been hard to come by.
"We have not been able to secure enough funds for both teams. We have got some money from FIBA to cover airfare," he said.
He noted that the women's team needs about US$8,000 to cover meals and accommodation, but there are also other expenses.
Nattie said US$10,000-US$15,000 should be able to see them through. He added that they would be following up with potential sponsors today. "We have not given up."
Meanwhile, Edwards has been using her Facebook page to try to solicit funds from well-wishers of the team, which has accomplished much since 2006. In addition to the Caribbean Championships that they won right here in Jamaica, the team also won bronze and silver medals at the Centro Basketball Championships in Mexico and Puerto Rico in 2006 and 2010, respectively. They also won a bronze medal at the CAC Championships in Puerto Rico in 2010.
"My fellow Jamaicans and friends, please make a donation towards our training camp expenses, even if it's US$5. We, the Jamaican women national basketball team, need all the help we can get right now as we try to prepare for competition this month from September 21-28 in Mexico. We will be practising in South Florida, so if anyone wants to help out, please inbox me. Thank you in advance."
Interested persons can make contributions via PayPal.Com (Business Name: Team Jamaica Basketball, Inc, Email: TJBINCUS@gmail.com.)