FOLLOWING a prolonged absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic the National Basketball League (NBL) is scheduled to make its return next month, and organisers say they are expecting an exciting championship despite the long layoff.
The NBL, which is the country's top basketball competition, was cancelled midway the 2020 season due the COVID-19 outbreak in Jamaica.
The competition has attracted 10 teams this year, down from 12 in 2020, with St George's Slayers as defending champions. The league, which will be played over four months, will see some of the island's top players matching strides as they seek to impress national team selectors.
President of the Jamaica Basketball Association (JaBA) Paulton Gordon said despite the near three-year layoff he is upbeat that this year's tournament is going to be one of the most intriguing.
"We are quite elated that it is back on the basketball calendar because the last we did the NBL was in 2020, but when the COVID 19 hit the teams were quite disappointed," said Gordon.
"Gradually, over the last year and half, we would have seen some basketball activities and so one of the things that we definitely wanted to place on the calendar this year was the NBL, and so it is right back," he added.
Gordon noted that despite the absence of the NBL, a lot of players were still very active as a result of playing in a number of leagues around the country, and are thus in good condition and ready to go.
"I think that 70 or 80 per cent of the players were involved [in] some other leagues earlier this year and they are now back with their teams over the past weeks and so they are looking forward to it," he told the Jamaica Observer.
"We have 10 teams, and that is a nice, compact number...but [we are inspired] because of the quality that we are seeing, and so we are hoping that the teams will have a great season," Gordon said.
The other competing teams in this year's competition are the UWI Running Rebels, Rae Town Raptors, Urban Knights, Upper Room Eagles, Tivoli Wizards, Falmouth Saints, Central Celtics, Spanish Town Spartans, and Portmore Flames.
Gordon is urging all supporters to come out and cheer on their respective teams.
"This is our top club league, and a lot of the players will be looking to ensure that they play as well as possible because the national coaches will be looking on," he stated. "We have a game against the University of Missouri in the summer and we want to ensure that an all-star team from the NBL can represent well," Gordon ended.