T&T Basketballers: The NBFTT has dashed our hard work and World Cup dreams

EPL Infrafred Sauna

“[…] A Newsday article advised that the National Basketball Federation of Trinidad and Tobago failed to register the Male and Female Senior teams for the 2023 edition of FIBA 3×3 AmeriCup in November 2023.

“[…] All that we have worked for over the last two years; all the hard work we did during Covid; all the sacrifices both players and management made; all the hope that we had in realizing our dreams of our first Senior Men’s World Cup—following in the footsteps of the Under-18 TTO Youths in 2022—have been dashed in an instant with one poor decision…”

The following is a statement by Trinidad and Tobago basketballer Moriba DeFreitas, on behalf of the National 3×3 Team, on the National Basketball Federation of Trinidad and Tobago’s failure to register the team for the 2023 AmeriCup competition and issues regarding preparation for the 2023 World Cup Qualifiers in Israel:

The Trinidad and Tobago National 3×3 Basketball Team.

The Trinidad and Tobago 3×3 Team returned from the AmeriCup in Miami in November 2022 very optimistic, excited and proud.

At the event debrief, we discussed the many challenges and high points experienced both pre-tournament and during the tournament. Recapping FIBA AmeriCup 2022, we were asked to re-use old uniforms as there was no funding for new ones.

We each received a US$50 stipend the night before our 6am flight. We did not all have the same travel gear so we shared to make sure everyone looked uniformed.

Monies given for incidentals did not include tape and medical supplies for the trainer to look after our physical needs.

Trinidad and Tobago player Moriba De Freitas (left) gets excited during the FIBA 2022 3×3 AmeriCup basketball tournament.
(via NBFTT)

During the tournament, we observed that while we had eight team members, a trainer, a coach and a manager, other teams (also with eight players) were 17 and 18 members strong due to the rigorous nature of 3×3 and the attention needed for fast recovery between games.

Male and female players loaned each other playing sneakers when not on the court. Eventually, one player got a relative to purchase sneakers for those players that were in dire need of appropriate basketball footwear.

We never trained with actual tournament 3×3 basketballs prior to the tournament. We had to bring our own hydration to games until the NBFTT procured sponsorship from Blue Waters and VEMCO.

Nevertheless, at the debrief, when NBFTT asked if we would have preferred not to have gone than go under the unfavourable circumstances, we all declared that we were happy to have gone out and gotten the experience and exposure after many years of dormancy.

The Trinidad and Tobago Women’s 3×3 Basketball Team.
(via NBFTT)

We got the opportunity to show the rest of the world what Trinbagonians could accomplish if given half a chance. We also wanted the NBFTT to be proud of us.

Archimedes, the Greek mathematician, philosopher, scientist and engineer, coined the phrase: “Give me a place to stand, and I shall move the world.”

Today, that is still true of Trinidad and Tobago athletes. Our team that never played 3×3 in any international tournament before November 2021 went on to place 4th in the 2022 AmeriCup—making TTO 4th on the continent of the Americas.

This accomplishment earned Trinidad and Tobago the opportunity to participate in a 3×3 World Cup pre-qualifier that is scheduled for 6 – 7 May 2023 in Israel.

Trinidad and Tobago basketballer Ahkeel Boyd (left) looks for a way past a Brazil opponent during the 2022 FIBA 3×3 AmeriCup in Miami, USA.
(via NBFTT)

Success at this pre-qualifier would send Trinidad and Tobago into its first Senior Male Basketball World Cup, which could lead to participation in Olympic 2024 qualifiers.

Note that the FIBA AmeriCup 2023 tournament, which NBFTT missed the registration deadline for, will qualify one team to the 2024 Olympic Qualifiers. If the top teams in the 2023 AmeriCup already qualified, then the next in line will earn a spot.

At the 2022 AmeriCup, two TTO players were highlighted in the Top 10 Plays of the Tournament. Ahkeel Boyd earned Play #10 and Adrian Joseph earned Play #8.

Among the females, Afeisha Noel was lauded for her strength, consistency and outstanding performance during the games.

Trinidad and Tobago basketballer Afeisha Noel (centre) takes aim during the FIBA 2022 3×3 AmeriCup tournament.
(via NBFTT)

This brings us to the morning of 22 April 2023 when a Newsday article advised that the National Basketball Federation of Trinidad and Tobago failed to register the Male and Female Senior teams for the 2023 edition of FIBA 3×3 AmeriCup in November 2023.

To date, the Federation has not advised us of this situation or asked us for any support in terms of raising funds to register if lack of funding was the issue.

We are aware that the government is funding community leagues and other basketball inclusive initiatives and have no doubt that someone, somewhere would have been able to approach an MP or corporate sponsor to donate or loan the NBFTT US$3,000 to register the team until the executive got its house in order.

We could even have hosted our own fundraisers. This is not just a blow to the current players, but it is also a blow to the future of basketball. It will take the sport back by at least four years in order to get back into an Olympic cycle.

Lt Col Jason Hills was elected president of the NBFTT on 14 January 2023.

All that we have worked for over the last two years; all the hard work we did during Covid; all the sacrifices both players and management made; all the hope that we had in realizing our dreams of our first Senior Men’s World Cup—following in the footsteps of the Under-18 TTO Youths in 2022—have been dashed in an instant with one poor decision.

This is the closest that any Senior Male Trinidad and Tobago National Team has come, in any format of basketball, to qualifying for a World Cup.

The U-18s showed that this was possible when they were given the opportunity in 2022. This is an Olympic qualifying year. Trinidad and Tobago was carded to participate in possibly five tournaments in 2023, which would have contributed quality ranking points toward the Olympic Qualifier in 2024.

Those tournaments are: 1) the World Cup Qualifiers; 2) the 2023 World Cup; 3) CAC Games; 4) Pan American Games; and 5) FIBA AmeriCup 2023.

Trinidad and Tobago players scrap for the basketball during FIBA 2022 3×3 AmeriCup action against Brazil.
(via NBFTT)

At the 2022 FIBA AmeriCup alone, Trinidad and Tobago earned 97,200 ranking points. Missing the 2023 AmeriCup will mean a significant loss of quality ranking points in addition to missing the chance of possibly qualifying directly through the tournament.

We the players feel that we deserve an explanation for this unsportsmanlike foul-up. We are questioning the competency of the current administrators having not registered a team or disclosed to the stakeholders that they could not—and why.

No one in the NBFTT has reached out to us to date with any kind of update, explanation or apology after having hurt us and the sport so badly. This begs the question as to whether the NBFTT views us as their most valuable resource.

The Trinidad and Tobago Men’s 3×3 Basketball Team.

As we look forward to attending the upcoming World Cup Qualifier in Israel in the next eight days, we are very anxious and concerned.

There has been no screening advertised in the media or on the NBFTT page, and no practice since November 2022—despite knowing that the World Cup is looming within weeks.

No letters have been written to the employers of team members for time off, despite several requests to the NBFTT. We do not know what is happening, who is on the short list for travel or anything else.

We have not been approached for our names, sizes and playing numbers to be put on our uniforms as required by FIBA. We are wondering whether NBFTT expects us to compete at optimum and appear dishevelled and unprofessional or just to participate because we qualified in the prior year.

Trinidad and Tobago player Ahkeel Boyd (left) takes it to the rim during the 2022 FIBA 3×3 AmeriCup in Miami, USA.
(via NBFTT)

We want to go to the table to dine—not to serve ourselves up on a platter.

Editor’s Note: On 23 April 2023, the NBFTT issued a press statement in which president Lt Col Jason Hills accepted “full responsibility for the non-registration of Trinidad and Tobago’s 3×3 teams” and apologised for it.

Hills: “This was a tough decision, but it was done in the face of the NBFTT’s present challenges… There were challenges inherited by the board of directors with critical decisions and sacrifices to make.

“Therefore, it was decided to focus on Trinidad and Tobago’s immediate mission: participation at the 3×3 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers scheduled for 6-7 May in Israel…”

Trinidad and Tobago player Moriba De Freitas (top) blocks a shot during 2022 FIBA 3×3 AmeriCup action against Argentina in Miami, USA.
(via NBFTT)

The NBFTT’s only explanation for the non-registration was “difficulties and frustration during the transition process” and a less than “thorough handover from the previous board”.

Hills was elected as NBFTT president on 14 January 2023. He replaced Claire Mitchell at the post.

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  1. That is a very poor kamer duck excuse given by the President LT Col Hills..
    Regardless of what difficulties he was faced with he must have know about the prevailing situation..
    I would think that is why he offered himself and i suppose a team to deal with matters of urgent importance…
    How long would it have taken to draft a letter to players employers and have the players collect them and take them to their bosses??
    Registration for a touranment such as a world championship only required an email to the organisers or the governing body indicating an intention to participate and all the necessary protocols would have been sent to them..
    So in one word I summier up Mr Hills statement..

  2. Unforgivable
    This new NBFTT flounced in on the hype that Claire was like the devil self!
    Booted her out…to do THIS?
    Imagine me…ME…totin water for Claire?!?!? HAHAHAH
    Imagine Claire is the standard by which this NBFTT are to be judged—and they stillllllll have been found wanting?
    Just WaW

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