SANJAY MYERS With the JamRockerZ AT THE FIBA AMERICAS CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFIERS in Caracas, Venezuela
CARACAS, Venezuela — After Jamaica's history-making run in the 2013 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Americas Championship, the players have expressed the desire for continuity if the JamRockerZ are to become a major force in the region.
Jamaica, competing in the FIBA Americas tournament for the first time, defeated former winners Brazil and defending champions Argentina, en route to finishing eighth in the 10-team tournament.
Only the top four teams — Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Argentina — automatically qualified for the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.
Dylan Ennis, who attends University of Villanova in Philadelphia, said the team did a "great job" after not having the sort of preparation that other better-funded countries had heading into the Championship. The 21-year-old guard believes the same core of players could have an even greater impact in the future.
"I think we did a great job and we did a lot better than a lot of people expected. We are trying to move forward and I think if we stay together with the same team we can become more successful. It's hard to get the team together in so little time. In the future I think we could really do some damage," he told the Jamaica Observer just moments before he and several of his teammates departed Caracas on Tuesday.
The team's starting centre, Jerome Jordan, who had strong performances, particularly towards the tail end of the competition, said that while the Jamaicans made waves at the FIBA Americas Championship, it is important for the growth to continue.
"We accomplished a lot as a team and as an overall group. It's just important to stay in contact with each other, both coaches and players, and work towards getting better individually and as a team so that we have a better showing in whatever competition we are in," said the seven-foot Jordan.
Garfield Blair, a guard who put together creditable minutes coming off the bench, noted that rebounding at both ends of the court is one major area where improvement is needed. He added that a more prolonged preparation heading into the tournament would have led to better chemistry within the squad.
"The experience was very tough. We came into this competition and I think we did pretty good. We held on in the tournament, but like any team we have stuff we need to get better on. Obviously we need to improve rebounding because we were out-rebounded most of the games. I think that's an area we'll focus on.
"We are still getting used to each other. A lot of teams were in training camp for two months and we weren't, so it's like we were still getting to know each other during the tournament," explained the six-foot, five-inch basketball player.
The team's second biggest man, the six-foot, 11-inch centre Vashil Fernandez, said despite his bit-part role in the tournament, the experience garnered was the ideal platform for a good year at the Valparaiso University in Indiana.
"This [tournament] was a big highlight for me... going into my junior year in college. This will be my breakout year. Coming here and playing with these guys and competing against these big teams. That has helped a lot and I just want to get better and try to get starts at the five (centre) position," said the 21-year-old former Calabar High student.
The rest of the Jamaican delegation was scheduled to depart Caracas yesterday.