Coach of the Junior National Basketball team, Mark Agard is currently preparing the basketball squad that will represent Guyana at the basketball events of the upcoming Inter-Guiana Games (IGG) and he says the team is definitely ready for the November 19-21 event.
“We are ready, we are definitely ready,” Agard said in relation to the preparedness of the team when contacted by Stabroek Sport yesterday.
The selection of the team that will be representing Guyana, as they take on their neighbours French and Dutch Guiana at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall is now down to a 14-man squad. However, Agard disclosed that the final 12-man team will be named by November 6.
“We kept the 14 because a few members of the team are out of town [living in Linden and Kwakwani] and we need enough players at practice [in Georgetown] to train during the week,” said Agard.
However, the national coach indicated that though the team will be finalized on November 6, the coaching staff will retain the two extra players to aid with their practice session until the day of the IGG Games.
Currently as the team stands, the out-of-town players train in their respective communities, while the Georgetown players practice every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with the players from Linden and Kwakwani joining the training session on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Even though the squad is decentralized, Agard explained that cohesion in the team is strong and while the squad does not train as a unit on every occasion, this no longer hampers their performance and their ability to cooperate well on and off the court during practice.
“We are getting there with the team chemistry, it was difficult at first but we are getting there,” Agard stated.
In addition to their practice sessions, the IGG basketball team has also been preparing competitively for the Games by going up against Division One basketball teams around Georgetown. Two of these match-ups that were publicized and drew a sizeable number of basketball fans at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall saw the junior national team being defeated by one point to the Division One Ravens basketball team and two points to the Pepsi Sonics in the same division.
In relation to these results Agard stated: “They are representing themselves against these Division One teams, so they are in the making… they are fairly up to standard if they are barely beaten when playing against Division One teams.”
According to the coach, the IGG team has won a series of other small games against teams such as Colours Panthers and Courts Pacesetters ‘B’ Team.
“The games that we lost, we could’ve won them,” Agard declared. He further noted that the main reason for these defeats is the team’s immaturity when it comes to closing out games in crunch time.
“We are working on our maturity in closing out games… we could’ve won the games but we just didn’t finish,” said Agard. “I think that we got it [maturity] now because those games were a while ago, but we are continuously working on it. We are striving to be better all the time, we are not going to become complacent,” Agard added. Captaining the junior national team for the IGG basketball games is returning captain, Akeem Kanhai, while the vice captain of the team is likely to be Richard Mohandatt. While justifying his selection for the team captain Agard stated: “Kanhai is very mature, his game has improved greatly and he can carry the team.”
The junior national team’s road to the IGG games will lead them through a series of other warm-up games between November 6 -13. The IGG team will go up against the national under-23 team on November 6, followed by a clash with the senior national team.
Another encounter with the national under-23 basketball team is also on the cards as the IGG basketball team is scheduled to meet the under-23 team in an exhibition game on the final night (Sunday, November 14) of the All-Star weekend.