If you're as good as the Flags of the World sporcle quiz as I am - unlikely, punks - or you're up on your NUsports.com press releases, you probably already guessed that this is the Trinidad and Tobago version of this post I wrote a few days back.
Kyle Rowley, NU's resident seven-footer, will be representing his native homeland of the T and T at the Carribean Basketball Confederation championship starting today in the British Virgin Islands.
First off - this is great for Kyle. My viewpoint on Rowley is thus: I'm not quite sure why he came to college last year, considering he had the opportunity to return to high school. He's got all the requisite skills and body type to be a major college center, what he doesn't have is enough playing experience to put it all together - he only started playing as a freshman in high school, and he left high school after his junior year - for starters, he travels more than your average pickup baller, and despite being 7 feet tall, has shot layups that hit the backboard above the square. The more he plays, the less we'll see of these follies, so it's good to see him playing competitive ball in the summer.
Kyle has experience playing for the basketball version of the Soca Warriors - he participated in a U17 tournament two years ago, and it's good to see him moving up to the senior national team, because that level of competition was beneath him. Rowley led the competition in rebounds and blocked shots (look at the graphic on the right side) averaging 9.8 points, 9 boards, and 4 blocks. Those stats are all you need to know about the competition in that tournament - in his play last year, Rowley wasn't a dominant rebounder or shot-blocker when playing against guys his own size, only averaging 1.8 boards and recording nine total blocks all season long, 11 less than he had in that five game U17 tournament. But those stats are definitely a glimmer of potential, regardless of whether they were against guys half his size.
Later today, he'll be playing his first game in this tournament, and facing stiffer competition in a Jamaican frontline of Louisville's Samardo Samuels and ex-training camp Clipper and Purple Drank favorite (ffavorite?) Kimani Ffriend (no typo, he's just really a really ffriendly guy), which goes to show that not all Jamaican centers end up wearing the uniforms of other countries. In a surprise move, recently graduated NU walk-on Marlon Day, who hails from Jamaica, was not selected for the Jamaican team's final roster by head coach Sam Vincent.
As much as we want Kyle to succeed, don't hold your breath expecting Trinidad and Tobago to do much winning. If you have ever spoken to someone from Trinidad and Tobago for more than five minutes, you will probably hear about their excessively cool soccer team, who qualified for their first ever World Cup in 2006, causing the entire country to stop caring about anything else for several weeks, and causing me to briefly contemplate getting a Shaka Hislop tattoo on my right bicep.
But you won't hear about their basketball team - the country has essentially no basketball heritage, as evidenced by the fact that Rowley's U17 team went 0-5 in the aforementioned tournament, and that the squad at the 2007 rendition of this tournament finished in ninth place out of nine. But remain optimistic - if the team manages to be in the top three teams out of 8, they will qualify for next year's Centrobasket tourney, which probably means as little to you as it does to me. It's not like the Bahamas and Barbados are basketball powers, and, hey, if Northwestern lost 34 straight football games and only 15 years later, went to the Rose Bowl, who's to say the T&T can't change their losing ways and go all the way with a little bit of Rowley?