V.I. Under-18 men's hoops team begins play in FIBA Americas today
Published: June 16, 2012
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University of Florida men's basketball coach Billy Donovan, Mark Few of Gonzaga University and Shaka Smart of Virginia Commonwealth University are three of the elite coaches in the NCAA Division-I college ranks, and all three will be on the sideline opposite of the U.S. Virgin Islands Under-18 men's basketball team.
The USVI will open the FIBA Americas Under-18 Championship tournament against the United States at 2 p.m. today in Sao Sebastian do Paraiso, Brazil.
An all-star coaching staff is back again for Team USA, and why not? The U.S. has won the gold medal in five of the last seven tournaments and has a combined 38-2 record since it began competing in 1990.
"I don't think our young men will be intimidated," USVI Basketball Federation president Usie Richards said Friday. "We played them tough two years ago, and at least six players from that team are in the NBA now. We have a lot of guts, and we will compete."
USVI Under-18 coach Jareem Dowling could not be in reached in Brazil, where the team arrived Thursday after a weeklong training camp in Miami, Fla.
By coaching contrast, Dowling is a new assistant at Southern Mississippi, an NCAA Div.-I school that competes in Conference USA. Dowling knows his players, and has been grooming USVI talent at the international level for the last five years.
"Jareem is from the Virgin Islands, and he knows our guys very well," Richards said. "He's quickly moving up the Div.-I coaching ranks and is very good at scouting talent. Coach Estrill and coach Tang have also been involved for many years."
The top high school players from the territory will make up one of the eight teams vying for a spot in next summer's 2013 FIBA Under-19 World Championship. The five-day tourney in Brazil starts today as the USVI will play three preliminary games in as many days, and then the team is guaranteed an additional two more games in the semifinal and final rounds.
The tournament's semifinal round begins Tuesday, and the USVI was drawn in Group A with the USA, Mexico and host Brazil. Group B includes Canada, Puerto Rico, Argentina and Columbia.
"We're in a tough bracket, but this is not the first time we've gone up against these bigger countries," Richards said.
The USVI went 1-3 at this tournament in 2010 in San Antonio, Texas. It was first time since 1974 a USVI team had advanced to a tournament of that caliber, and the team's memorable 88-78 victory over Mexico was the USVI's first win at the FIBA Americas Championships.
This year's USVI squad is loaded in terms of international experience. Eight of the 12 players on the roster have represented the territory in previous FIBA regional tournaments.
Some of those players starred on the USVI squad that defeated the Bahamas in overtime and won the bronze medal at the Centrobasket Under-17 Men's Basketball Tournament in Puerto Rico last August. Winning the bronze then secured the USVI's spot in this week's tourney.
Amadius Der-weer, Rasheed Swanston and Jose Santos Jr. are some of the veteran leaders on the team, while Der-weer and Swanston also competed at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010 and have the most experience at the international level.
Khallid Hart was another leading scorer from last summer's Centrobasket Under-17 Men's Basketball Tournament team.
Shomari Francis and Keita Jones are the only two players on the team to graduate from a high school in the territory. Francis, a recent graduate from Central High School, was named MVP of the 14th annual Sun Stroke All-V.I. Hoop Classic last April on St. Croix. He finished with a game-high 20 points and helped lead the Crucians to a 75-69 comeback win.
Angel Daniel Rivera-Cuencas, Kye Hodge, Justin Gray and Alex Brazil will be making their international debut for the USVI.
- Contact sports reporter Aaron Gray at 714-9102 or e-mail email@example.com.
USVI Under-18 men's basketball roster
FIBA Americas Under-18 Championship
Sao Sebastian do Paraiso, Brazil
Name Position Height
Keita Jones Guard 5-7
Angel Daniel Rivera-Cuencas Guard 5-7
Kye Hodge Forward 6-4
Kareem Harris Guard 6-3
Shomari Francis Forward 6-3
Rasheed Swanston Forward 6-5
Alvah Phillip Jr. Guard 6-4
Khallid Hart Forward 6-6
Amadius Der-weer Center 6-6
Justin Gray Forward 6-6
Jose Santos Jr. Center 6-6
Alex Brazil Center 6-6
Coach: Jareem Dowling
Assistant coaches: Pedrito Estrill and Jerome Tang
Source: USVI Basketball Federation president Usie Richards