For nearly 40 years Haiti has been absent from the International basketball scene. 2018 saw the official comeback of Haiti’s official team with the ball club beating contenders from Montserrat, Barbados and even going undefeated at the International Basketball Federation AmeriCup Caribbean 2021 Pre-Qualifiers. The Haiti Basketball team made headlines across the globe as fans from all over the world crowded in to cheer them on.
But bad news came lurking. With less than a day before the semifinals Haiti national basketball was to informed by FIBA that they had been disqualified from participating. FIBA cited its rule governing nationality, stating that only one player on a national team can be a naturalized citizen, and that the player had to have done so prior to his 16th birthday. The team has since appealed the decision.
With their season ended but a bright future ahead of them Allo Ayiti has caught up with Haiti national basketball teams’ Power Forward Jeffrey Coby to gain his perspective on the team’s future.
Good evening can you tell us a little bit about you and your background?
My name is Jeff Coby. I’m a 6’9 forward who started playing basketball at age 10 because I was playing soccer before. I was born in Virginia and raised in South Florida. In Florida, I went to the Sagemont Upper School. Two of my most memorable moments were graduating with a 3.7 GPA average and being awarded the state championship MVP of the 2011 Varsity Boys Basketball 2A Championship. I finished high school at Choate Rosemary Hall before going to University for four years. I completed four years at Columbia University where I earned two degrees, one in sociology and one in art history.
I am the son of two Haitian born parents- Henrio and Mireille Coby. I am a very chill laid back person who enjoys the simple things in life.
How did it feel to play for the Haitian national team and how was the experience?
I thought I was in a dream. It almost didn’t feel real at first. I was able to play along side with other very talented players from the same country as me. I was completely foreign to this brand of basketball, but I grew to love it instantly. We displayed our instantaneous chemistry once we started speaking in our native language, i.e. Haitian creole, on and off of the court. All of the players developed memorable bonds in the given amount of time that we had together. From training camp to our last game on the court. It was evident that there was sense of brotherhood in the making. Safe to say, we all still keep in contact.
Also, we had great coaches who are very knowledgeable about the game of basketball. They were able to develop a system for us that not only highlighted our talents but was also efficient enough to prompt an undefeated record of 5-0 in the FIBA AmeriCup 2021 Caribbean Pre-Qualifiers 2018. I am forever grateful for Matt Brase, Nick Friedman, Aaron Winshall, Pat Washington, Henri Jean, our athletic trainer Jean and our photographer Kathy.
What does it mean to you to put on the Haitian Jersey?
It was truly an honor to be able to represent my country. I almost cried tears of joy when I put the jersey on because it meant so much to me. From a historical stand point, Haiti has not competed on a national level in over 30 years. This lead a lot people in Haiti to believe basketball doesn’t have a strong presence in Haiti. Contrary to popular belief, a lot of the most talented basketball players in the world are Haitian.
There is a plethora of talents with Haitian blood in the NBA such as Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin, Mario Chalmers, Dwight Howard, Skal Labissiere and the list goes on and on. However, I felt like this opportunity was also a way to restore some hope in the country from both an athletic and communal perspective. I want people to feel proud that they are Haitian. In terms of athletics, I want people in Haiti to believe in themselves and their abilities so that one day someone else can wear a jersey with those 5 letters across their chest and represent our special country. So for me to be able to represent my country on a national level with those 5 letters across my chest was such a remarkable experience. I will forever hold it close to my heart. However, I will always be ready for when I get a call regarding future compaction.
Where did you learn to play basketball and why you choose to play basketball?
I learned to play basketball in South Florida when I was 10 years old. I began growing taller and taller so my parents thought “why not put him in basketball?” So I began playing in recreational leagues and for fun with my friends in the neighborhood. Subsequently, I kept growing taller and the art of basketball became a lifestyle for me. I was so attracted to the game from the comradery, fashion, structure and joy that it brought me. Basketball is multifaceted art because of its versatility and worldwide influence. Ever since I started playing, I have visited over 20 states for basketball and played across the world in places like Spain, France and Russia.
What was going through your head and the other players when you guys were told Haiti was disqualified. do you think there was ulterior motives when they disqualified Haiti?
Our thought process was focused solely on winning the tournament and restore a sense of pride for supporters of Haitian basketball. With that being said, I have faith that our team would have won the tournament because our play spoke for itself. As far as our disqualification, that’s a trick question I think anyone who watched us play would know the answer to. We controlled what we could control, and that was displaying good sportsmanship and respecting the game by giving it our all for every game.
What have you been up to since that season? What are your future plans? And what do you think is the future of the team?
have been training with the Knicks organization since the season is over. I hope to make it in the NBA one day.
I think we have a great core group of guys from the players, coaches and our staff. If we continue to work together, I see a lot of success in the near future.
2018 UPDATE: Breaking News
In recent breaking news reported by basketball writer Nicola Lupo of Sportando, the New York Knicks have reported that they will sign former Columbia forward Jeff Coby, . According to ESPN’s Ian Begley: Coby worked out for the team recently and impressed in informal sessions and garnered the coaching staff’s attention.
Coby played for the Haitian National Team and spent the past year in Spain, and while at Columbia, he averaged 5.2 points and 3.9 rebounds on 43 percent shooting from 2013-17.
By Mondestin Derelus
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