Trinidad and Tobago 3x3 ballers dream of Olympic qualification

TT 3x3 men’s basketballers (from left) Chike Augustine, brothers Ahkeel and Ahkeem Boyd, and Moriba de Freitas with their Pan Am Games bronze medals in Santiago, Chile.  -
TT 3x3 men’s basketballers (from left) Chike Augustine, brothers Ahkeel and Ahkeem Boyd, and Moriba de Freitas with their Pan Am Games bronze medals in Santiago, Chile. -

Two weeks after earning Trinidad and Tobago's first ever basketball medal in the history of the Pan American Games, TT's 3x3 men's basketballers are hopeful of finding a route to next year's Paris Olympics via one of Fiba's Olympic qualifying tournaments in 2024.

With three teams already qualified for the 3x3 basketball tournament at the Olympics – China, Serbia and the 2023 Pan Am champions US – five spots are still up for grabs in three Olympic qualifiers referred to as the Universality-driven Olympic Qualifying Tournament 1 (UOQT 1), Universality-driven Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2 (UOQT 2) and the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT).

The winners of the UOQT 1 and UOQT 2 will advance to the Olympics, while the top three teams in the OQT will advance to the games. TT can only qualify for the Olympic tournament by hosting one of the qualifiers and earning one of the spots on offer. Crucially for TT, the host nations for the Olympic qualifiers are yet to be decided and Fiba have set a November 30 deadline to submit a bid for hosting rights.

TT's Pan Am bronze medallists Moriba De Freitas and Chike Augustine are both "optimistic" the National Basketball Federation of TT (NBFTT) will do the necessary groundwork to give the TT basketballers the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream.

"Coming off the momentum of the bronze medal (from the Pan Am Games), I think everybody who is on board and trying to fight for this right now are really putting an honest effort in to try and accomplish these goals," De Freitas told Newsday. "I think we are finally getting the support from the right set of people, slowly but surely. If we are to place a bid for these Olympic qualifiers, we have to move with some sort of urgency."

Augustine said: "It will be a dream for us to go to the Olympics and I think we'll have a really good shot if we do qualify. I hope the NBFTT and those that oversee everything do what is necessary for us to have a chance to go there and participate."

Efforts to reach NBFTT president Jason Hills proved futile, but NBFTT's VP of organisation and development, Daron Lall, told Newsday talks have begun concerning the possible hosting of one of the qualifiers.

"(Our proposal) to go through the process of being approved by the government and the Ministry of Sport and Community Development," Lall said.

"There are discussions going on right now within the (NBFTT). I don't know of any letter being sent to the Ministry of Sport yet. We would have to submit a proposal basically showing all the benefits of the games and show why it is beneficial to host the tournament and show the pathway to get there."

Like De Freitas, Lall said the matter should be treated with urgency if TT are truly desirous of participating in basketball at the Olympics.

"Other countries are also vying to host and take this pathway as well, so if we don't put in a bid we have zero chance (of making the Olympics)," Lall said.

With some of the "powerhouse" basketball nations participating in the second and third qualifying tournaments, Lall fancies TT's chances of progressing to the Olympics if they are able to secure the rights to host the UOQT 1.

"There are different Olympic qualifying competitions which all have different criteria for qualifying. We don't meet any of the criteria except if we are the host of the tournament," Lall said. "If I have to choose which tournament, it would be the UOQT1 because the teams who are already named there, we can definitely win that tournament compared to the others. The reason why I am saying the UOQT1 will be better for us, is because the teams that already participated in the Olympics in (5x5 or 3x3 basketball) aren't allowed to play in this tournament."

Austria, Egypt, Latvia, Mongolia, Netherlands and New Zealand are the six teams already confirmed for the eight-team UOQT1. Brazil and the Olympic hosts France are two of the teams which headline the UOQT2 field, which also has eight teams. The third Olympic qualifier will consist of 16 teams.

"This will be a real good thing for TT. It will put us on the map. Hosting this tournament could bring sport tourism to TT. It will do wonders for the youth and show them there is something to work towards," Lall said.

Both Lall and De Freitas said a venue for hosting the qualifiers shouldn't be a problem, as the fast-paced 3x3 game is contested on mobile courts.

"If we get turned down for the bid, then so be it," Lall said. "But to not even try, it will be total waste. Right now, there is fear around the world for TT. Where have you heard about that in basketball?

"They're afraid of us after the giants we beat in Pan Am. People are recognising we have good players in TT now. We've always had good players, but they're getting to see us now."


"Trinidad and Tobago 3×3 ballers dream of Olympic qualification"

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