17 April 2008

CAPE VERDE : Is Ryan Gomes going to join the national team?

That's the big question. The Portuguese-speaking group of islands located on the west coast of Africa has a population of under 500.000 but most Cape Verdians do live abroad including the US with estimated 500.000 (mostly in Massachusetts and Rhode Island) and Portugal with another 80.000 people. Ryan, who is proud of his Cape Verdean family background, is the second player from the islands to make the NBA after retired guard Dana Barros who played in 14 seasons and 850 games in the league but never for the national team.
If the Minnesota Timberwolf (Averages currently 12,5 points and 5,7 rebounds per game as a starter) decides to accept the invitation to join the national team, the chances for a good outing at the Olympic qualifying tournament (July 14-20 in Athens, Greece) of the small country from the African continent would definitely increase.

The big surprise of the African Championships in 2007 (Nigeria, Morocco and Egypt lost to the undersized and mostly unknown Cape Verdeans) faces a tough task against Germany (including Dirk Nowitzki and possibly Chris Kaman) and New Zealand (features several former-college players like Craig Bradshaw and Kirk Penney, the last one who hade even two short stints in the NBA) and could need help at the forward positions.

"Gomes has been asked a number of times but has not played at any time", tells me Dan Klotz, the US representative of the national team.
He adds further: "Despite star Center Rodrigo Mascarenhas (Plays professionally in Angola and played in Portugal before), Cape Verde has at time struggled against teams with greater height and more physical inside play, and Gomes would be an instantaneous antidote to that."

Other players from the Boston-area like Marques Houtman (UMass-Dartmouth) and Tony Barros (UMass-Boston) already represented the country of their ancestors successfully in international play.
Houtman, a 1,90m guard, was even voted to the All-Star Team of the African Championships altogether with Mascarenhas and stayed in the host country of Angola to play for Primeiro Agosto Luanda.

And more could even follow: "Jeff Xavier would be most likely to join the team in the very near future, possibly in time for the Olympic Qualifying tournament. After two highly successful years at Manhattan College, Jeff transferred to Providence College, where he led the team in scoring, and led or was at the top in 4 categories, including rebounding, highly unusual for a guard.
Jeff was invited to join the national team in 2007, and personally expressed an interest in doing so, but the Providence College coaching staff led by Tim Welsh would not allow him to play. Welsh is no longer the coach at Providence College, and we hope very soon to have Jeff join the national team", states Klotz, who resides in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, an area with a large Cape Verean population.

With Loyola-Maryland University guard Brian Rudolph, who finished the season as the MEAAC-Freshman of the year, and center Aldevino Lima of Northeastern University, the future of the national certainly looks bright,
but adding Ryan Gomes would help the underdogs immediately to battle the highly touted national teams for a spot in the 2008 Olympics.
Now it's up to Gomes to decide if he wants to join the preparations and play a major role in the national team or to rest during the summer and prepare for the next season in the NBA.

Personally, I'm hoping that Cape Verde will manage to pull an upset win over New Zealand in the first round to advance.
With or without Ryan, the team will be proud to represent the country in such a prestigious event, and make Cape Verde and its players known to a wider public (There is going to extensive television coverage around the globe) then before.

It's a win-win situation for Cape Verdean basketball and also gives hope to smaller "basketball-countries" for the future, and I am sure a lot of basketball fans will root for the underdog when it's about time.

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