Hield shines for Bahamas in FIBA Basketball World Qualifiers
Pacers guard Buddy Hield recently donned his national team jersey for the first time since 2018. From June 30 to July 3, the Bahamas men’s national basketball team played two games that counted as playoffs for the upcoming FIBA World Cup 2023. Before the games started, the Freeport native told FIBA media that he takes this commitment very seriously.
“Coming from the islands, the chances are very slim,” he said. “Being born and raised there, people have seen me walking these streets, seen me working hard every day to get there. If I can do it, they can do it too.
Hield played important minutes for the team in both games. Although they finished with a 1-1 record, it was enough to push them into the second qualifying round, which takes place at the end of August. The Bahamas are one of 12 teams from the Americas to advance to the second qualifying round. They will now compete for one of the seven slots allocated to countries in the Americas at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023. That’s an incredible feat for a country with a population roughly equal to that of Cleveland, Ohio.
Hield and his teammates secured their spot with a 97-80 win over the Virgin Islands on July 1. According to the FIBA website, the Virgin Islands held a FIBA World Ranking of 57, six places higher than the Bahamas, making the win by 17 points. a little upset. Hield dazzled in the game, dropping a team-high 24 points on 8-of-17 shooting, including 5-of-11 from 3-pointers. True to his resurgence with the Pacers, the guard also dished out five assists, tying the team. Current Florida Gulf Coast Guard Franco Miller also had five assists.
Two days later, Hield had the opportunity to perform in front of a local audience. The Bahamas hosted a talented team from the Dominican Republic in Nassau, the nation’s capital, in the second game of the qualifying set.
“I haven’t played in front of a home crowd since I was in high school in the Bahamas, so a very, very long time,” he told FIBA media before the match. “I can’t wait, family will be there, friends will be there and it’s a great opportunity to show the Bahamian people what we are capable of.”
Hield also had the support of a Pacer teammate in the United States. During the contest, striker Oshae Brissett posted a clip of the match on his Instagram Story.
Ranked 20th, the Dominican Republic beat the Bahamas 70-54 in the first three quarters. However, Hield and his teammates made a valiant comeback effort in the fourth, beating the heavily favored visitors 26-18 in the final 10 minutes. But unfortunately, that was not enough to pull off the surprise. Hield finished with a game-high 29 points on 11 of 16 shooting, including 6 of 11 from deep. He carried five boards, dished out nine assists and had three steals. He played all but 22 seconds of the total possible playing time.
Hield wasn’t the only Pacer to dress for his own country last week. Goga Bitadze is also part of the Georgian national team fighting for a place in the second round of the European qualifiers. Although Bitadze is not expected to play in any game, he is expected to see the ground at EuroBasket 2022, also known as the European Basketball Championship, from September 1-18.