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Albury, Dean help up-and-coming Bahamas take next step
REGENSBURG (David Hein's Eye on the Future) - Bahamas was not expected to be the team making the biggest storyline at the Centrobasket U17 Championship 2019. But Deyton Albury and Romad Dean gave fans back home in Nassau, Freeport and Grand Bahama a reason to celebrate with another bit of inspiration from an up-and-coming federation.
Sure, Mexico going undefeated in winning their first Centrobasket U17 title - knocking off hosts Puerto Rico in the Final 85-83 - was a big deal, but Bahamas pulled off a big shock in defeating Dominican Republic in the Third Place Game to join Mexico and Puerto Rico in qualifying for the FIBA U18 Americas Championship 2020 - on the road to the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2021.
Mexico grab their historic first Centrobasket U17 Championship title.
Dominican Republic had reached the previous three U18 Americas tournaments - even taking third place in 2014 to reach the U19 World Cup in 2015. And the Dominicans also had arguably the best player in the competition - do-it-all guard Jean Montero. The Bahamas meanwhile have not played in the U18 continental tournament since 2008.
But that's why they play the games.
The Bahamas came into the game with two losses - by five points against hosts Puerto Rico in the opener and then a 16-point defeat to Mexico in the Semi-Finals, scoring just 48 points. The Dominicans also lost to both Mexico and Puerto Rico - both by four points and against Puerto Rico in the Semi-Finals.
Montero, whose recent accolades included winning the MVP of the 2019 Basketball Without Borders Americas camp and helping the Dominicans to qualify for the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2020, helped the team jump out to an 11-2 lead. The Bahamas were not intimidated and answered with an 8-0 run and led 18-17. After trailing 19-18 following 10 minutes and owning a 41-40 lead at the break, Bahamas gained control of the game in the third quarter headed by Albury and Dean in pushing the advantage out to 59-50. It was 66-59 after 30 minutes.
Albury and Dean, who had been Bahamas' rock solid one-two punch all tournament, continued to play well and had Bahamas up 73-64 with 7 minutes to play. The Dominicans raced back into it with eight straight points and tied it 77-77. Bahamas impressively never let the Dominicans take the lead and watched as Montero evened the game 83-83 on a layup with 13.9 seconds left.
Then it was Albury and Dean time one more time …
Deyton Albury collected 28 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 steals in the Third Place Game against Dominican Republic in 40:00 minutes.
With a spot in the FIBA U18 Americas Championship 2020 on the line, Albury got past Montero on a drive to the basket and tossed up a high layup over Dominican big man Rey Abat, who was the tournament’s second-best shotblocker with 9 swats in 60 minutes played. The shot did not go in but Dean overpowered the smaller Montero on the rebound for a tip-dunk with 4.3 seconds left to take the lead.
Romad Dean picked up 18 points, 13 rebounds and the game-winning tip-dunk with 4.3 seconds left in 39:12 minutes against Dominican Republic in the Third Place Game.
The Dominicans’ final prayer was left unanswered as Montero's long three-pointer at the buzzer clanged off the back of the rim and the Bahamas dream came true, qualifying for the FIBA U18 Americas Championship for the first time since 2008.
"I was very elated and very happy with their performances," Mario Bowleg told Tribune 242.
Bowleg had a vested interest in the performance of Albury, Dean and co. in Puerto Rico as he took over as Bahamas Basketball Federation president in April 2019. He was also the Bahamas head coach in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers, in which the Bahamas won one game - Bowleg's final game as a coach against Dominican Republic.
Mario Bowleg coaching in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers
"I'm just happy that we were able to pull this victory off. The guys said that they wanted to do it for me with me walking into retirement and I appreciate that. They wanted me to walk away as a winner," he was quoted after the Americas Qualifiers game.
The Bahamas senior team has done a good job moving forward. They currently have two players in the NBA - Buddy Hield with the Sacramento Kings and DeAndre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns. They also have LJ Rose, who actually played for the United States at the FIBA U16 Americas Championship 2009. Another up-and-coming Bahamas talent is 2001-born Kai Jones, who will be attending the University of Texas starting this fall.
Buddy Hield will need help in the future if Bahamas want to reach the next level.
In addition to Travis Munnings, David Nesbitt and Michael Carey, the Bahamas are also seeing their players get experience in Europe as well with Shaquille Cleare, Winslo Barry and JR Cadet all playing in Spain and Kentwan Smith in Denmark. There is also the 2000-born Dominick Bridgewater, who was the second-leading scorer at Centrobasket U17 Championship 2017 with 24.8 points to go with 8.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 4.2 steals and is now playing in France's U21 league.
Dominick Bridgewater will be a major part of the country's long-term senior national team.
Bridgewater was just 18 years old when he made his senior national team debut at the FIBA AmeriCup 2021 Pre-Qualifiers in February 2019. Also on that team was Lourawls Nairn, who came back to play after working in the management staff of the Phoenix Suns after his college career at Michigan State ended in 2018.
Bahamas lost to Cuba but knocked off Antigua and Belize to advance to the FIBA AmeriCup 2021 Qualifiers. The road to their first FIBA AmeriCup will not be easy though as Bahamas have been drawn into Group D along with United States, Mexico and Puerto Rico. The top three in the group following the February 2020, November 2020 and February 2021 windows will reach the AmeriCup.
"We feel our chances are just as good, even if we were in the other group," Bowleg said. "We have played very well against teams like Puerto Rico and Mexico in the past, so with players like 'Tum Tum' (Nairn) and the other guys who are home, we feel we will have a much better team this time around."
Quentin Hall is helping Bahamas take the next step by coaching the country's next top stars.
The previous qualification method was through the Centrobasket Championship, for which Bahamas failed to qualify for four straight events from 2004 to 2010. They got back to the Centrobasket in 2012 by finishing second at the CBC Championship 2011 with Quentin Hall playing a major role. A summer later, Hall was the head coach at Centrobasket.
Hall holds high standing in Bahamas as he played for Gonzaga in the late 1990s and then played professionally in Europe in Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. And now the 42-year-old is the BBF third vice president under Bowleg - and he was the successful coach for Bahamas at the Centrobasket U17.
"I put a lot of assurance in him. I told him that it's been too long since we had a team at the (FIBA AmeriCup)," Bowleg said of giving Hall the reins of the U17 team in Puerto Rico. "I told him before we start changing the guard, he needs to take us back there."
Reason to celebrate for Bahamas
Hall's tutelage has helped Albury and Dean carry Bahamas back to the FIBA U18 Americas Championship. The Centrobasket U17 experience along with the lessons learned at the 2019 BWB Americas camp will go a long way in helping those two stars take the next step next summer.
And actually long term as well as the development of Albury and Dean into the next wave to help Hield, Ayton and Bridgewater carry Bahamas to new heights.
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