National senior men’s basketball coach Rick Turner says that Jamaican players currently in the United States collegiate system will prove important in helping to create a squad capable of qualifying for the Paris Olympic Games in 2024.
The 2020-21 campaign began on November 25 among the various school conferences with several changes because of the coronavirus pandemic. Those changes include teams playing no more than 27 regular-season games, with no exhibition games or scrimmages. A team will be eligible for selection to next year’s Men’s National Championship Tournament if they have played at least 13 games.
The Jamaican contingent of players who made their collegiate debuts this year included Lawrence Foreman (Rider University), Josh Minott (University of Memphis) and Jordan Kellier (University of Utah).
REPRESENTING THEIR COUNTRY
However, Turner says that the critical factor in the overall national recruitment is their desire to represent their country at the highest level.
“Well, I think they’ll (college players) be important for sure. Ultimately, we are going to put a team together of Jamaica basketball players who want to play for their country and have the ability to succeed at the highest level possible,” Turner told The Gleaner. “You don’t have to play Division One basketball in order to play a major role with this team, and that said, we want to have a team of people who are passionate and excited about representing their country.”
Warren Williams (Manhattan College) and Kofi Cockburn (University of Illinois) are two other college players who have also started their respective seasons, with the latter deciding to return for his sophomore year after initially declaring for this year’s NBA draft. He recently scored a career-high 33 points in their 92-65 win over Minnesota University on December 15.
National youth coach Nyron Hurd says that the emerging talent will help to shape the team as they seek to qualify for the 2024 Games. While a new rule will limit the number of foreign-born players that they can incorporate, Hurd says that he is optimistic about the young local-based talent that has excelled abroad.
“There is a slight issue for Jamaica, especially with the overseas-born [players]. Now, the international rule has changed, and you can only use one of those players,” Hurd said. “Nevertheless, we have some good local-born players who are doing really well.”
Among the standout local-born talent are Romaro Gill, formerly of Seton Hall University and Jamaica College alumnus Nick Richards, who spent three years at the University of Kentucky. Richards will start his NBA career with the Charlotte Hornets via a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans, who originally selected him 42nd overall in the NBA Draft on November 18. Gill went undrafted that night, but has since been signed by the Utah Jazz
Turner is bullish about the senior team’s potential to reach their Olympic target and says that they are crafting plans for further youth development, and also to increase the chances of overseas opportunities.
“I’m fully convinced that we have the players today to compete at an elite level, and I think we are going to further develop players,” Turner said. “I know that part of our plan as an association is to create more opportunities for players to play year-round and allow them to be seen by overseas coaches, and all of that is in the mix. We need some support to make it happen and we are working on that portion of it.”