ST CATHERINES (Centrobasket U17 Championship 2017) - Tarry Upshaw will have extra motivation when he goes to Dominican Republic this summer to coach Jamaica at the Centrobasket U17 Championship 2017. He wants to bring the Jamaicans back "home" to the FIBA U18 Americas Championship 2018 in Canada.
Jamaica are already in unchartered waters just being at the Centrobasket U17 Championship 2017 from 26-30 July in Dominican Republic - the first time the country has made the tournament at the youth levels. But the Canadian coach Upshaw doesn't want to stop there.
"I want to qualify for FIBA U18 Americas Championship 2018," said Upshaw, knowing that only the top three from the tournament will reach the continental tournament.
"It's really unique with the FIBA (U18) Americas (Championship 2018) being in Canada. It is actually a two-minute walk from Ridley over the bridge. I see it every single day. I want to medal and qualify. That's my goal."Tarry UpshawThe 2018 U18 event will be played at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines, a building which Upshaw knows very well being the basketball head coach at nearby Ridley College in St. Catharines.
"It's really unique with the FIBA (U18) Americas (Championship 2018) being in Canada. It is actually a two-minute walk from Ridley over the bridge. I see it every single day," said Upshaw, whose team will face Dominican Republic, Panama and Virgin Islands in Group B in Santo Domingo. "I want to medal and qualify. That's my goal."
The top two from each group reach the Semi-Finals and the top three advance to FIBA U18 Americas Championship. Jamaica have only played at one men's FIBA AmeriCup - that in 2013 in Venezuela.
Upshaw, who played a major role in developing youth basketball in Canada, is spending his second summer with Jamaica after federation president Mark Broomfield wanted to totally rebuild the country's program. The coach helped build up the infrastructure in the build-up to the Caribbean U16 Championship 2016, Jamaica's first appearance in that competition since 1998.
Jamaica managed to win the first game against Suriname in overtime despite 39 turnovers. Upshaw's team eventually beat Barbados in the 3rd-Place Game to qualify for the Centrobasket U17 Championship 2017.
"That was massively important. Without that there'd be no extra development. It probably would have gone back to what it was. Now there is a systematic way of looking at this and trying to build the country from the youth up," Upshaw said. "And it's engaged because all the children see the opportunity, know there is a team and a chance to play. Without us qualifying, everything is dead in the water."
As it is now, Upshaw said the game is growing in Jamaica.
"The game is groundswell in Jamaica. The national sports of cricket and football are still there, but there is a real push in basketball in the youth."
But don't expect to recognize the team from the Caribbean U16 Championship last summer in the Dominican Republic. After qualifying for Centrobasket U17 Championship 2017, Upshaw said he and his coaching group received calls and emails from all over the world from Jamaicans abroad saying their son is Jamaican, born in Jamaica and they would like to try out.
"It's been overwhelming," Upshaw said.
At the same time, the flood of interest from Jamaicans in England, Canada and the United States from New York City to Florida gives Upshaw a greater selection of players from which to choose.
"We need to be the best rebounding team in the tournament. If we dominate the glass we'll be fine. Defensively we’ll be able to play with most people, at least what I have seen. Now we will have better size with more experience than last year. But we can’t turn the ball over. It will be a killer against anybody. I think our guys have to come and fight."Tarry Upshaw"I think we'll have a strong team. I know we will be stronger than the group that went to the Caribbean U16 Championship," he said.
One player expected to be back is captain Samora Williams, who was Jamaica's leading scorer and rebounder and had 17 points and 23 rebounds in the decisive win over Barbados.
"Samora Williams will return as a our captain. He has a big heart. He's just a warrior," the coach said.
When asked what Jamaica must do at Centrobasket U17 Championship 2017 to be successful, Upshaw said: "We need to be the best rebounding team in the tournament. If we dominate the glass we'll be fine. Defensively we'll be able to play with most people, at least from what I have seen. Now we will have better size with more experience than last year. But we can't turn the ball over. It will be a killer against anybody. I think our guys have to come and fight."
You know that Upshaw will be doing everything in his power to bring his Jamaican guys back "home" to Canada next summer.