by RENALDO DORSETT
Some of the most popular names in Bahamian basketball were back at home to take in the Nike EYBL Elite Camp and they came away impressed with effort of the local high school prospects.
Buddy Hield of the New Orleans Pelicans and Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr of the Michigan State Spartans said the members of the Bahamas Select Team showed the future of the game is bright in the country, despite their 113-88 loss to the Nike EYBL Elites, Saturday at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium,
Hield, – who roamed the sidelines assisting head coach Quentin “Three Ounce” Hall, Denycko Bowles, Wayde Adderley and Nigel Ingraham – said the players showed an elevated level of determination after the 60 point loss in 2015.
His pregame speech was all about competing at the highest level.
“I had to get them prepared, no matter what you do, don’t go out there and feel like you didn’t compete. Once you compete and you have heart, anything can happen. I’m sure the guys from America, they respect what they did, at one point they cut the lead down to 19,” he said, “Hopefully, next year we get it to single digits and hopefully one year we can win a game in this series.”
Hield told them to seize the opportunity for the exposure and to learn from others that have reached the pinnacle of the game.
“I just told them to stay aggressive. When I was younger I never had an opportunity like this, to play against these guys. There are a lot of people watching this game, so you never know what can happen. I’m just glad I could be here and be apart of this because you never know what can happen,” he said, “I learned from ‘Three Ounce’ now they can to learn from me. I’m still learning everyday, so it’s good for all of us.”
Nairn, on a brief vacation before he returns to East Lansing, Michigan, said the effort was an accurate representation of Bahamian basketball.
“I thought they played really hard, they competed, that’s what we [Bahamians] do so I liked to see that. That’s in our blood, that’s how we grow up, thats where we come from,” he said, “If they were to play any other way it wouldn’t have been fun to watch so even though they lost it was still fun to watch because they competed.”
The junior point guard struggled through an injury plagued sophomore year, but Nairn has looked healthy enough this summer to deliver a series of impressive performances at the Moneyball Pro-Am.
“My summer has been good. I had surgery on my foot after the season, took two months off, now I’m back in the gym working out and everything’s going good,” he said, “[Being an upperclassman leader]Its comfortable for me because that’s who I am as a person as a player. We have a lot of new guys and a lot of great players, I just have to keep molding them and getting them ready to play.”
Hield and Nairn were also high school teammates at Sunrise Christian in Wichita, Kansas and in college, their teams met in the 2015 Sweet 16 during the NCAA Tournament.
Trae Young, ranked No.22 in the ESPN 100 for the Class of 2017, made his second appearance at the EYBL Bahamas.
“It was really fun going up against those guys. This game was much more competitive than when we played them last year,” said Young. “It was a really good game. We had a little back and forth going on for a bit, and that’s what it’s all about. I enjoyed myself here. The Bahamian people showed us nothing but love our entire time here.”
Young, from Norman, Oklahoma said it was also an opportunity to reconnect with Hield, who starred at the University of Oklahoma for four years.
“It was fun, with Buddy being here. I know Buddy from Norman and he went to OU so that was a great experience. The game, it was fun and I think we put on a great show for the fans. We got to enjoy the time with the people out here and we really appreciate everything and getting the opportunity to play in front of these fans.”
They were coached by a pair of former NBA players, Rasheed Wallace and Brian Shaw.
Wendell Carter, the 6’9” prospect out of Pace Academy is ranked second behind Bahamian prospect Deandre Ayton in the class of 2017 on the ESPN 100 and has received offers from Duke, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Auburn, Georgia Tech, Harvard and Texas A and M.
He finished with 15 points and three rebounds and said it was a benefit to be coached by a big man like Wallace after being coached by guards Shaw and Gary Payton in 2015.
“It was great competition, the Bahamian team, they’re a little undersized compared to me and the other bigs but they come out here and work as hard as they can,” he said, I’ve already established a great relationship with Rasheed a while ago, so him, just coming back down here and catching up it was definitely great.”
Franco Miler (Tabernacle) led the way for Team Bahamas with 21 points on 7-15 shooting from the field, including 4-7 from three point range. Adrian Thompson (CC Sweeting) added 13 and Azaro Roker (Anatol Rodgers) chipped in with 11 points and nine rebounds in the loss.
“It’s great for the guys here, they want to measure themselves against the best from the US and that’s what it’s all about,” Shaw said, “They were able to do that, they got some good plays, they got the crowd going , they got into each other’s faces a bit and that’s what this is all about. I was very impressed this year with how well the Bahamian team played, they had better shooters, more athleticism and they played really hard.”
The Bahamas took an early 5-2 lead but Nike eventually took a 24-14 lead at the end of the first quarter. The EYBL team started the second quarter on a 12-4 run and extended their lead. Nike pulled away in the first quarter and led 40-19 early in the second and 59-30 at halftime. The Bahamas staged a brief rally in the third, sparked by Roker’s highlight dunks and Miller’s pair of threes.The Bahamas Select cut the margin to 19, at 87-68 with less than eight minutes left, but was not able to make a run.