Native Virgin Islanders Tim Duncan and Raja Bell will face off during the 2003 FIBA Americas Men`s Olympic Qualifying Tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico, August 20-31, 2003. The two local heroes will go head-to-head during the USA vs. Virgin Islands game, scheduled for August 23. Duncan will compete as a member of the USA lineup while Bell will represent his birthplace as a member of the Virgin Islands team.
“It`s great to know that St. Croix has produced two outstanding NBA athletes,” Commissioner of Tourism Pamela C. Richards said. “The FIBA tournament is sure to be exciting, as we watch Tim and Raja compete against one another.”
FIBA Americas (Pan-American Basketball Confederation) is a non-profit organisation that represents the international basketball federation (FIBA) in the three Americas. The 2003 FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament will welcome a total of 10 teams from North, South and Central America. The three top teams of the competition will earn a coveted qualification spot in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. The tournament finals will be held on August 31, at 10 p.m., in San Juan.
The renowned St. Croix athletes continue to foster pride in the residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Tim Duncan was born on St. Croix in 1976, where he was a competitive swimmer until 1989, when Hurricane Hugo destroyed his swimming facility. It was not until that time, that Duncan (age 13) began to play basketball. Since his NBA start in 1997, Duncan has earned numerous awards and led the San Antonio Spurs to many victories. Duncan was named Most Valuable Player in 2002 and 2003, the only player since Michael Jordan to receive this honor two years in a row. He also won the NBA Finals MVP in 1999 and 2003. Duncan appeared in television commercials for the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2000, provided a personal greeting on the tourism Web site and continues to support the islands` youth through the Tim Duncan Foundation, which raises money and awareness for health research, education, youth sports and recreation. Following the Spurs 2003 NBA Championship win, Duncan returned to St. Croix for the third annual Sun Stroke Ballers Weekend. As part of the weekend, Duncan mentored hundreds of hopeful NBA stars during a youth basketball clinic.
Raja Bell, also born on the island of St. Croix, trained on the same swim team as Tim. He entered the NBA arena in 2000 as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. Bell was honored for his extraordinary effort during the 2001 Shaw`s Pro Summer League, a weeklong exhibition series, and received the desirable Shaw`s Cup. Raja showed increased skill during his 2002-2003 season with the Dallas Mavericks and is sure to heat up the court in the 2003-2004 season.
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