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Bermuda gunning for glory in Surinam

Bermuda guard Kevin Stephens uses the team’s new secret weapon at CedarBridge Academy (Photograph by Ben Saunders)

The Bermuda basketball team have unveiled their secret weapon for the Fiba AmeriCup 2021 Caribbean Pre-Qualifier, which starts in Surinam on Sunday.

The Bermuda Basketball Association has acquired two state-of-the-art shooting machines, called “The Gun”, and the players have been getting full usage out of them as they look to fire their way to glory.

Gavin Mackenzie’s side are going into the tournament undersized, but aim to show that small can be beautiful in the land of the giants.

The new machines have been helping them with their game plan, which will rely heavily on outside shooting.

“We’ve developed a really good relationship with the Bermuda Olympic Association and the Pan American Games had a grant that was available through the Olympic Association and they graciously asked us to come on board and it turned out to be great for us,” said Rickey Watts, the BBA president. “[These machines] are the best on the market right now.

“This type of technology has never been in Bermuda for our basketball team, so we are very fortunate and we are over-the-top happy about the BOA helping us out. They use this at Golden State and everywhere else!”

As the side went through their preparations at the CedarBridge Academy gymnasium last night, Gavin MacKenzie, the Bermuda head coach, outlined the reasoning behind his strategy.

“We’re going to be playing small ball,” he said. “My small forward [Jason Lowe] is now my centre. Now he’s the biggest guy on the team because a lot of the former players don’t want to make a commitment, so you have to go with those who are going to commit.

“We were a small team when we went in 2015 [to the Caribbean Basketball Championship in British Virgin Islands] and now we’re even smaller! A lot of these guys are new to the programme. Right now, the only veterans we have are Chris Crumpler, Jason Lowe, John Lee and Yusef Riley. All the others are new.”

Tim Trott, MacKenzie’s assistant, added that Bermuda have to take into account the increase in standard and physicality in Surinam. The tournament is the first step to qualifying for the 2021 Fiba AmeriCup tournament and takes place in the Surinamese capital, Paramaribo.

The Caribbean Pre-Qualifier will qualify two teams for the AmeriCup Qualifiers, beginning in September. The two qualified Caribbean teams will join the South American and Central American Pre-Qualifier champions, along with the four eliminated Round One — Fiba Basketball World Cup Qualifier — Americas teams.

Bermuda will be in group B, along with Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Haiti and Montserrat. Group A consists of Grenada, Guyana, St Lucia, St Vincent and Surinam.

“In Fiba basketball, it’s going to be a lot more physical than most of these guys have seen,” Trott said.

“What they do in the league, they’re not going to get in this tournament.

“You see a lot of guys getting easy layups in the league; they’re not going to get that. They’re going to have somebody who’s 6-9, 6-10 in the middle. So what we’ve been emphasising is taking mid-range to long-range shots.”

MacKenzie added: “They’re going to pack it and they’re going to count on us missing, so we have to deliver offensively. They’re going to be giving [jump shots] to us, so we have to take advantage.”

But “The Gun” machines have come in useful, allowing players to get plenty of reps as they work on their shooting.

“It saves having somebody to rebound and you can reset it to come at a faster rate,” Trott said.

And Watts sees the long-term benefits of “The Gun” machines.

“We needed this to progress our programme and this will do great for our men’s, our unders and our women’s programme because it will allow them to get as much work in to prepare for their opponents,” he said.