LA BANDA (Argentina) – For years now, many have talked about Canada as the continent’s sleeping giant and with good reason. Could there be another up-and-coming basketball powerhouse further a bit down south?
Canada have seemed to establish an endless pipeline of talented players and while it took some time for them to build their program, they’ve recently secured the commitment from some of their best players, including Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and R.J. Barrett, and they’re one of the favorites to win the upcoming World Cup.
That giant has awakened, leaving room for another one to possibly rise from their slumber.
Despite a total population of roughly 400,000 people, this small Caribbean island nation has always produced top-notch basketball talent, going back to the time when big man Mychal Thompson went No. 1 overall in the 1978 NBA Draft. He went on to win a pair of championships with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1987 and 1988.
Forty years later, another big man (Nassau’s Deandre Ayton) again went No. 1 in the NBA Draft.
Back in 2014, Buddy Hield was picked in the lottery by the New Orleans Pelicans. And more recently, center Kai Jones was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 19th overall pick in 2021.
What changed recently is that Chris Demarco, an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors, was able to convince them all of suiting up together, put on their national jersey and take Bahamas to new heights.
And that’s what they’re doing at the FIBA Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament 2023 Argentina, where they’ve already advanced to the Semi-Finals after sweeping their slate in Group A – defeating Cuba on Monday and handling Argentina on Wednesday.
A quick glance at their games proves that this is not a fluke. The team not only has talent and depth, but the pieces also fit well together. There are plenty of shots for their 3 stars, role players like Travis Munnings know exactly how to fill the gaps and an offensive identity has quickly developed.
This is no small part thanks to Eric Gordon, who’s journey to this moment was a bit different than that of his teammates. Gordon was born in Indiana but his mother hails from Nassau. A top prospect since a young age, the shooting guard made it to the next level thanks to his blend of athleticism and outside shooting, but it’s his development that allowed him to carve out a career that is still going strong after 15 seasons.
Gordon can do it all. He can handle the ball and run an offense, while also shooting off the dribble with unlimited range. He’s a versatile defender, quick enough to chase shooters through screens and stocky enough to bang on the post and guard bigger forwards.
That skill set is what makes this team sing. Gordon is more than capable of filling the stat sheet, but he’s also smart enough to take a back seat when his co-stars have the hot hand. This was in full display against Argentina, where he scored a game-high 24 points on just 12 shots.
But someone had to commit first, and Hield was the one who answered Demarco’s call.
The sharpshooter played some games during the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Americas Qualifiers, opening the door for the cavalry. Jones joined him, and while he ended up not being part of the team this summer, is expected to be a big part of the project going forward, giving the squad at least 4 big-time stars.
Stack that on top of a supporting cast that features Mullings, Franco Miller, Kentwan Smith and Lourawls Nairn and you have a bona fide squad.
And that’s before factoring in a potential return of National Team stalwart Mychel Thompson, who played for Bahamas as recently as the 2022 FIBA AmeriCup Qualifier.
In the meantime, Bahamas are playing better than ever, and this could just be the beginning of their ascent.
Could they be the continent’s new sleeping giant?
Are Bahamas the new sleeping giants in the Americas?