Watts: island can host top basketball tournaments
The president of the Bermuda Basketball Association wants to bring international tournaments and American college teams to the island.
Rickey Watts said the biggest hurdle to bring a tournament is facilities, but said he had has “positive” conversations with the Bermuda Tourism Authority in regards to bringing an event here.
Bermuda will be visiting Surinam in June to compete in the Fiba Americup 2021 Caribbean Pre-Qualifier.
“We've got thar tournament coming up, which is tied to Fiba,” Watts said. “We recently went to the Indigenous Games in Canada. We know we are going to be in the Dominican Republic next year and we are going to engage with other teams that are even going to come to Bermuda to play.
“By having all that exposure as far as basketball is concerned, it's going to allow us to grow much more. In the past, we didn't have that type of exposure. We would just go to an event, come back, we would quietly [go] and quietly return.
“But our players are getting more and more international experience, and with that experience we are going to get better.
“So now when we go to a tournament, instead of going to, say, we're developing our young men and we think they're going to get better, we are saying we should win this game and this game and look forward to playing in the finals of the tournament.
“I'm optimistic with the way things are going and how we're developing our programmes with the men's team and the women's team, our under-19s and under-16s.”
And there is also a focus on developing the sport off the court, too.
“Right now, we've got Division II and Division III colleges that are coming in and competing and we are going to be in that mix,” Watts said.
“Also, we are working with tourism right now, trying to develop an international tournament, which will bring over teams like Guyana, the Dominican Republic, like Puerto Rico. And we'll do a home-and-away with them. If they come, we'll go and play there.
“We've had no visual contact with our national team. Our country hasn't seen our basketball team play against another country. And we're looking forward to putting our product out there and seeing us competing with the newly-invented Fiba three-on-three that is going to be an Olympic event. So we'll be vying for a spot there with our competitors in the CBC.
“We're trying to bring basketball to Bermuda.
“The biggest hold-back for us is facilities, being able to bring in teams who are used to a professional facility; that is the biggest drawback, so we hope that Government comes together and gives us a format so that we actually know that at some point we'll have a professional indoor facility that can be a multipurpose set-up for not only basketball, but tennis and netball, for example, as an arena for Bermuda.
“If we had a facility here, it's easy that teams will come here and do their own tournaments, Conferences like the ACC and SEC, they're looking for places to do pre-season tournaments or postseason tournaments at neutral sites and just think of it, where would you much rather play? Would you rather play in New York, or would you rather come to Bermuda, where the sun is shining?”
Indeed, the Cayman Islands is playing host to the Cayman Islands Classic in November for a second straight year. The event was won by college hoops powerhouse Cincinnati last year and features Clemson and Creighton, who both played in the recent NCAA Tournament, this year.
“I've had calls from about five or six people in the States who have said: ‘Do you guys have a facility? We'd like to do a tournament there',” Watts said. “The Caymans now, we're a closer product to the East Coast; they could come here and bring a slew of people and the island would be overrun with tourists, which is what we're looking for.
“I must say that the conversations we've had with the Bermuda Tourism Authority have been positive. The only thing we have to do is we've got to find a facility to house the event. We could pull this off and it would be great. It would bring in much-needed income to the island as a whole.”