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Jun 26, 1998

G. Michael Reid applauds National Male Basketball Team

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Belize may be in the middle of a heated general election campaign, but for the last week and a half, this popular pastime has taken a back seat to basketball. And while the CARICOM Tournament ends tonight, the stellar performance of the Belize male team will no doubt be a hot topic of conversation for quite some time. News Five’s commentator G. Michael Reid already has a mouthful to say.

“As the fourteenth CARICOM Basketball Championships draw to a close, it can be said that the host country BELIZE, still very much in the running for top honors is collectively holding it’s breath and waiting to exhale. Of course by the time this program airs over the internet and in the districts via tape delay, the contest will have been decided and hopefully our local team will have emerged victorious. Regardless of the final outcome of these games however, this combination of locally and foreign based BELIZEANS athletes, a selection which at first was the cause of much debate and controversy, will have in the end, been able to achieve what nothing before them has ever been able to do. The exciting and competent play of this team under the watchful and skilled tutelage of former NBA star David Greenwood assisted by American Clarence Morgan and BELIZEAN Freddy Gabourel, has united all BELIZEANS together under one flag. The abundance of love and support expressed and the degree of pride and patriotism generated as a result of their success, would in the end by itself seem to justify the enormous cost and effort that went into this endeavor. Many are the people who toiled tirelessly toward making these games a success and while time does not permit making mention of all who deserve it, I would be amiss to not at least mention a few. The carnival groups of both Cultural Heritage and C-Jamm have donated heavily in both time and person power and the efforts of public relations officer Paul Flowers can not be overstated. The skilled trainers who dedicated much time and energy in keeping our injury riddled team in play readiness also deserves special mention and includes local trainer and body building medallist Dillon Jones and American Tony Spino. Mr. Spino was gracious enough to take time from his busy schedule as trainer of the world famous UCLA Bruins and along with Jones has done a remarkable job. Special mention must be made of the exciting performance of our cheerleading girls. They did much to keep the team motivated and the audience vocal and involved.

I must admit that I was among the skeptics who at first questioned the plausibility of this brave venture, but like most other people I am now totally convinced that it was a positive move and the right one to make. I still believe of course, that our City Center is a disgrace, especially the bathrooms, but was happy to see that at least the team locker rooms were put in reasonable decent shape. The biggest concern by far of course, was how well the hitherto leaky roof would hold up in the event of major rainfall but while at least one game had to be halted as a result of minor leakage, even the gods of wetness seem to be smiling on this event. One more night dear Lord and please, bless our BELIZE team.

Our female national team of course, did not do nearly as well as our males and by early Wednesday morning after they played a formidable and obviously well tuned Jamaican team, they had been eliminated. It would be unfair to suggest however, that this team was disappointing, for while a few members have been playing for some years, most are young players and none have had the advantage of proper coaching. Hopefully the success of our males will encourage those in power to pay more attention to sports and do more to institute proper programs within our primary and secondary schools where it must all begin. Many of these girls learned to play this game too late and encouragement has been at a bare minimal. We nevertheless appreciate their efforts and hope that their next outing will be more fruitive.

The most impressive peripheral of these games so far of course, has been the enormous and disciplined support from the fans. The City Center has been packed to capacity for all but one game that our male team has played and the usual skirmishes that had become almost synonymous with events at the civic has been all but nonexistent. Seems a good time is being had by all and every shot, every deft move, every rebound has drawn thunderous applause and obviously, BELIZEANS are in love with this team.

The roof was almost brought down on Tuesday night when Olin Simpliss hit a spectacular and memorable last minute shot that went almost the entire length of the court and I am sure that it is a moment that few will soon forget.

Most commendable has been the financial support given by many members of the business community, and worthy of mention is the way that the Chinese and Indian community responded when it was suggested that maybe the sneakers that our boys had been wearing was the reason why they were slipping more than the other teams. Simon Quan and Company, Wellworth’s and Dooney’s pooled together and donated brand new top quality sneakers to almost the entire team and the only reason that all were not provided was because of the fact that a few of these guys had feet which like their talents, is how should I say, “large”. Just the thought however was meritorious and graciously appreciated by all involved. The hope now is that we can carry over this spirit of goodwill and camaraderie and do our endeavor best to keep BELIZE peaceful and united. To all our visitors, a heartfelt welcome and please, come again real soon.

With the Last Word, G. Michael Reid.”

The opinions expressed on the Last Word are those of G. Michael Reid and not necessarily those of Channel Five. Comments are welcome.

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