Suns C Deandre Ayton to play in Bahamas’ Olympic qualifier
Jul 31, 2023, 11:23 AM | Updated: 1:56 pm
(photo via 10thYearSeniors.com)
Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton is set to be playing for the Bahamas in mid-August across a week-long stint of qualifiers for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
“I’m excited to be back playing for Team Bahamas and to see how much the program has grown. Can’t wait to play with my guys. It’s truly a special experience to compete with teammates – who are from where you’re from – with Bahamas on your chest,” @DeandreAyton to @andscape. pic.twitter.com/lHWm0dhxhV
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpears) July 31, 2023
Ayton was born in Nassau and grew up there before moving to the United States for high school basketball. He has competed for the Bahamian national team in the past, most recently in 2016.
Indiana Pacers shooting guard Buddy Hield and Charlotte Hornets forward Kai Jones will also make the trek to Argentina for the qualifier from Aug. 14-20.
Olympic qualifying is often a perilous task and complicated, so take a deep breath before we cover what will have to happen in order for us to see Ayton in Paris next summer.
The Bahamas are among 39 other countries that do not have a chance to qualify for the 2024 Olympics via the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, which is the tournament the United States plays in starting in late August.
So, the Bahamas are in the Americas section of the FIBA Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament with seven other teams. It is divvied up into two groups, and the top pairs of teams in group play advance to a single elimination bracket consisting of four teams.
The winner of that bracket this August advances to the last task, the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament that comes in July 2024. That will consist of the pre-qualifying winner of the Americas, Africa, Asia and the two separate tournaments for Europe, as well as 19 other teams competing for a total of four spots in the Olympics. Those tournaments will take place in July, meaning the likes of Ayton could still continue to play for their country during the NBA offseason.
This is extremely difficult for a smaller basketball program like the Bahamas, who are ranked 56th in the world by FIBA, but they are now armed with much more talent.
It would have had an easier path through playing in the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup but it failed to advance in qualifiers for that after finishing at the bottom of its group, going 3-9 in 12 games across a 15-month period that ended in February. Some of those took place in the middle of the NBA season, so players like Hield and Jones were only able to make brief cameos across the full slate. You’ll remember this is what the Suns’ Chimezie Metu and Josh Okogie did for Nigeria, as did Ish Wainright while representing Uganda.
Both of those teams are in Africa’s FIBA Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament after also not qualifying for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Metu will be competing for Nigeria again, while more roster announcements are still to come for other potential Suns.
As far as the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, Yuta Watanabe will be representing Japan for the competition that takes place from Aug. 25 – Sept. 10.
The tournament for Ayton and the Bahamas begins on Aug. 14 against Cuba in group play before taking on host nation Argentina two days later and then wrapping up group play against Panama on Aug. 17. If the Bahamas advances to the bracket, the tournament concludes with the semifinals on the 19th and final on the 20th.
For Suns fans looking to watch Ayton or others compete, FIBA’s YouTube channel will be streaming the competition.