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Under-17 basketball team forging ahead despite setbacks

Published:Wednesday | July 17, 2019 | 12:00 AM

It’s never ideal when half of your squad is not available for training.

The fact that the reason for their absence is due to a stomach virus does not help matters.

Throw in the late start to camp, waiting for schools to be released for the holidays, and you have a national under-17 basketball team that is behind the eight ball in preparing for a big tournament. That’s not going to stop them from putting in the work, though.

Head coach Calvin Martin is determined to make up for the unforeseen setbacks as the team continues its preparation for the International Basketball Association (FIBA), CentroBasket Championships in San Juan, Puerto Rico, commencing on July 24 through to 28.

Despite the challenges encountered, Martin is pleased about how the boys have responded to sessions and their commitment to what has been asked of them.

“The boys are giving it their all and they have put in the time required of them, and we hope to put on a very good show,” said Martin.

It is a sentiment shared by the under-17 team manager, Gordon Porter.

“We played some practice games against different teams in different environments. [It was] designed that way to expose them to what you may call ‘more hostile situations’ and against strong teams, too. In that regard, I think we are making some progress,” said Porter.

Porter is under no illusions, however, of the level of competition that the team will face in Puerto Rico.

“We are aware that the competition is very difficult because we are playing against Central American teams and Latin American teams, and they are very strong teams. So we know that it’s not going to be easy, and we have to come at our best to compete to move beyond the first round,” stated Porter.

Meanwhile, coach Martin has emphasised the need for a massive improvement in the team’s shooting and defensive organisation in the lead-up to the championships.

“We need to have greater options behind the three-point line and then general [consistent] scoring. And, of course, you have to be technically sound when it comes to defensive, both as an individual and as a team,” stated Martin.

That improvement may come in the form of new players being invited to camp. Three were added from Excelsior High, St Andrew Technical High and Old Harbour High. Additionally, a few others arrived from the United States and Guyana last weekend. They will join the 12 already being looked at. The final 12-man roster that will head to Puerto Rico will be selected from that group.

The expectations are modest for the young squad, but Martin is hoping for a top-four finish. Anything higher than that would be a bonus and a giant leap for the programme.

Daniel Wheeler