The qualifiers for the FIBA U16 Asia Championship, SABA U16 Basketball Championship will tip-off in Dhaka, Bangladesh from the 3rd July – 5th July 2019. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India and Nepal will battle for one qualifying spot.
The Sri Lankan outfit is rich with talent, but talent alone does not make for perfection. Practice makes you perfect.
Barely a few weeks ago, the country was mourning after tragedy struck on Easter Sunday. Security measures were tightened. Academic and sporting events were halted. However, slowly but surely, the nation is returning to normalcy. In that process, the administrators should have exerted a bit more effort in combining this rich talent and a little bit of practice.
The other side of coin is, all these players were a part of the recently concluded U17 ‘A’ Division Boys’ Basketball Tournament, so, they are in the groove. There is only a single qualifying spot, the winner gets through. For the past three years, India has reigned. The defending champions have practiced over a period of a month. So, will this short practice suffice? Maybe, maybe not.
Sri Lanka has the height advantage, with 13 six footers in their 15-man squad. On their day, they could be a threat to any opposition. During many occasions in the past, Sri Lanka was equipped with speed and not with height. The islanders should utilize this advantage to the maximum this time.
Shehan Fernando will lead the overseas assignment. Fernando recently led St. Joseph`s College to be crowned U17 ‘A’ Division Champions. He is skilled equally in defense and offense, being an all-rounder player, Fernando could be both the x-factor and the catalyst in the team.
The skipper will be supported by some fine talent from the junior circuit of schools’ basketball. Individual talent is at a peak, hence it is important that all these 12 players unite themselves into one cause. Not having the luxury to spend time in gelling with each-other, the team combinations will be a challenge.
Among other multiple testers, both fitness and shooting will top the list. Grabbing the boards shouldn’t be a problem if the lads rightfully box-out the opposition and contest the loose ball. However, with Bangladesh having the home advantage and India playing a fast paced game, fitness will be the ultimate tester.
Veteran Prasanna Jayasinghe will spearhead the coaching unit, supported by Assistant Coach, Rasitha Fernando. Jayasinghe, an expert in the field, led Royal College`s U19 outfit to an unbeaten triple-win in 2017. Second in command, Fernando currently coaches St. Peter`s College – Colombo 04 and is also known for his dynamic coaching.
In nutshell, the tour will be a challenge for the players and the coaching unit as well. As for the positives, the selection committee has done justice, fielding a skillfull set of 15 players. If the coaching duo adapt the right player management methods, lead the side to play to their strengths under high-pressure situations and most importantly, play to their rhythm and not give in to the opposition rhythm, these players will deliver, they will deliver big.
It is unfortunate that this formidable side didn`t have the space to practice, but at all times in any sport, the result is unpredictable. The country shall place their bets on the talent and the experience of the mentors. All the best Sri Lanka!