Sport

Local female basketballers ready for Puerto Rico challenge

BY PAUL A REID Observer writer

Thursday, June 07, 2012    

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POINT, Hanover — Jamaica's female basketball team will not be backing down from any of their opponents when they take part in the bi-ennial Centro basketball tournament to be held in Puerto Rico June 12 to 18.

A feisty former player coach and newly installed associate head coach Simone Edwards said her players will be going into the week-long tournament with a "swagger" and will not be backing down.

Speaking at yesterday's press conference to introduce new head coach Jim Cleamons at the Grand Palladium Jamaica Resort and Spa in Point, Hanover, the former WNBA star said the team would be taking on the personality of their coaches.

"As good as our defence is and as athletic as (the players) are and as passionate as they are and they will take on the personality of their coach which means we are not scared of anybody; we won't back down from anybody and we are going out there to beat up anybody," she said. "We don't care, we are going out there and that's the personality we are going out there with and we are going there with a swagger and hopefully in the end we will come out at least finishing in the top three that's where we want to be," she also said.

Edwards, who was player/coach of the team when they were runners-up to Puerto Rico two years ago, said they had a good chance to make it to the top-three and advance to the next stage of the competition.

In response to a question from the Jamaica Observer she said the biggest hurdle in their four-team group would be hosts Puerto Rico.

Jamaica will play against Mexico, El Salvador and Puerto Rico.

"I believe in this team, I truly do," Edwards said, "even though we are rebuilding and some of the girls are playing together for the first time, the talent when you look at what we have I think they can go out and compete with any one."

She admitted, however, that beating the hosts would be a tall task.

Cleamons, who coached the Chinese women's team last year after a long and successful career in the NBA as both a player and a coach where he won a number of rings, said while he only met Edwards last week, the chemistry between them is positive and they are "on the same page" as far as their basketball philosophies are.

Edwards agreed with him and said the chance to coach alongside him was a "great opportunity and a pleasure".

The American, who will only be available for the first two games of the tournament before turning over the team full time to Edwards, also asked the players to bring "passion" to their games not just during the tournament, but also in training.

He arrived in the island on June 1 and said the team has been going through "double sessions" every day at the Montego Bay Community College and would continue for the rest of the week.

"We are trying to find some chemistry," he said. "Simone is doing due diligence and she is putting some groups together and is working with the players on offensive sets and defence," the former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach said.

"We are building, what happens out of that building that's what the rest of the practices will show and we will just keep getting after it," he added.

The 12-member squad that will represent Jamaica in the tournament was also presented at the event. They are Christina Mitchell, Ladonna Lamonth, Althea Byfield, Tajay Ashmeade, Angelee Latouche, Tracey-ann Kelly, Thova Gordon, Xandria Dell, Rhona McKenzie, Tarita Gordon, Sasha Dixon and Shennieka Smith.

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