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 a pair of games that counted as qualifiers for the upcoming FIBA World Cup 2023. Before the games began, the Freeport native told FIBA media members that he takes the commitment very seriously.
“Coming from the islands, the odds are very slim,” he said. “Being born and raised down there, people have seen me walk those streets, seen me work my butt off each and every day to get there. If I can do it, they can do it too.”
Hield played significant minutes for the squad in both games. Although they finished with a 1-1 record, it was enough to push them into the second round of qualifying, which takes place in late August. The Bahamas are one of 12 teams from the Americas to make it to the second round of qualifying. They will now compete for one of the seven spots alloted to countries from the Americas in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023. It is an incredible achievement for a country whose population numbers are roughly equal to that of Cleveland, Ohio.
Hield and his teammates secured their spot with a 97-80 victory over the Virgin Islands on July 1. According to FIBA's website, the Virgin Islands held a FIBA world ranking of 57, six spots higher than the Bahamas, making the 17-point win a bit of an upset. Hield dazzled in the matchup, dropping a team-high 24 points on 8-of-17 shooting, including 5-of-11 from 3-point range. Sticking true to his resurgence with the Pacers, the guard also dished out five assists, tying the team high. Current Florida Gulf Coast guard Franco Miller also tallied five assists.
Two days later, Hield had the opportunity to play in front of a home crowd. The Bahamas hosted a talented Dominican Republic squad in Nassau, the nation's capital, in game two 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 long, long time,” he said to FIBA media members before the matchup. “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’re capable of doing."
Hield also had support from a Pacer teammate back in the United States. During the contest, forward Oshae Brissett posted a clip of the game to his Instagram Story.
Coming in ranked 20th, the Dominican Republic outscored The Bahamas 70-54 over the first three quarters. However, Hield and his teammates made a valiant comeback effort in the fourth, outscoring the heavily-favored visitors 26-18 over the final 10 minutes. But unfortunately, it was not enough to pull off the upset. Hield finished with a game-high 29 points on 11-of-16 shooting, including 6-of-11 from deep. He hauled in five boards, dished out a game-high nine assists, and tallied three steals. He played all but 22 seconds of total possible game time.
Hield was not the only Pacer to suit up for his own country last week. Goga Bitadze is also with Georgia's national team as they battle for a second-round spot in the European qualifiers. Although Bitadze is not slated to play in any games, he is expected to see the floor during EuroBasket 2022, also known as the European Basketball Championship, from September 1-18.