On Aug. 11, the Coastal Carolina women’s basketball team left for the island of Cuba to spend a week practicing, training with the Cuban national team and getting a chance to spread the Coastal Carolina brand to another part of the world.
“I am so grateful to our athletic director, President [David] DeCenzo and the university in making this possible,” said head coach Jaida Williams, who will enter her seventh season as head coach later this fall. “It is a wonderful opportunity to play against the Cuban national team.”
Williams went on to say that some of her players have aspirations to play professionally and to “match their opponents skill set” is a great opportunity.
Coastal women’s basketball will not only be playing the Cuban national team, but will also be having clinics while down in Cuba, giving the team a chance to teach the game of basketball.
“We have the opportunity to serve the people of Cuba and serve the young ones there who have aspirations of playing pro when they get done with grade school,” Williams said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for us and we are very grateful for it.”
While there are some fun events planned for the team such as snorkeling and salsa lessons, Williams said the main goal is winning.
“Winning is always important,” Williams said. “It’s what we are going down there for. We are going down there to experience playing against professional athletes. We have been prepping a lot ahead of our trip.
Williams said 12 of her 15 players have never traveled out of the country. Senior forward Naheria Hamilton is one of those 12.
“I’m excited for it,” she said. “Not many people get this kind of opportunity to go play the sport you love, so the more my friends, family and I talk about the trip, the more excited I get.”
Hamilton said the team has put in a massive amount of work ahead of their trip.
“This is the hardest everyone has worked since I have been here,” she said. “With practices, weights and team meetings, I have to say I am very proud of my team with all the work they have put in.”
Last season, Hamilton recorded the second-ever triple-double in Coastal Carolina history with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocks. Hamilton led the Sun Belt Conference in blocks, averaging 1.97 per game.
Hamilton said playing against professionals down in Cuba can only bring out the best in herself and her teammates.
“This will definitely help us out a lot going into the season,” she said. “I look forward to gaining that experience.”
Senior guard Torrie Cash is also looking forward to the experience.
“The competition we are going to face down in Cuba will help us grow as a team,” she said. “I am looking forward to see what I need to work on when it comes to my game and make those adjustments ahead of the upcoming season.”
The Lady Chanticleers posted an overall record of 17-15 last season, going 8-10 in conference play. Cash said the competition in Cuba will certainly prepare them for their Sun Belt opponents.
“Playing against the national team down there will put us in a great position to be successful,” she said.
The Chants will play their first of three games against the Cuban women's national team on Aug. 12 at 10:30 a.m. (EST) at the Coliseo de la Ciudad Deportiva. The second game will be played the following day on Aug. 13 at 10 a.m. at the same location.
The third and final game will take place Wednesday, Aug. 14 at 10 a.m.
That afternoon, the Chants will take a tour of the United States Embassy in Cuba before departing for Varadero on the northern coast of the country.
This is the second time that Coastal Carolina has been represented in Cuba. The Chanticleer men's basketball team made the trip in August 2015 prior to the season.