The Retrievers men’s basketball team played its first game in the Bahamas Invitational tournament against Air Force’s Falcons. Loyal fans came out strong to support their respective teams. UMBC fans were extremely loud, cheering on the Retrievers fervently despite being seemingly outnumbered in every game. At the heart of the fan support are the parents of student-athletes who have come from various locations in the United States to support their children.
One such parent at the tournament is Nicole Lamar, the mother of sophomore-forward Arkel Lamar. She attended the tournament with her sister. She lives in Connecticut, but she came down to Bimini through Miami by barge for this event. But, she did not mind the trip because of the snow that started to fall over much of the northeastern United States as the tournament was scheduled to start. She also said that she goes to all of Lamar’s games, whether it be in Binghamton, Vermont or Bimini.
Nicole Lamar has enjoyed her time in The Bahamas so far, regardless of a bumpy ferry ride from Miami. She represented the UMBC brand proudly throughout her trip: sporting a yellow Retrievers T-shirt and making conversation with other UMBC fans. She added that she feels relaxed when her son is contributing to the team and enjoys seeing him do well.
Nicole Lamar was in Charlotte, North Carolina to watch No. 16 UMBC Retrievers defeat No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers 74-54 in the NCAA tournament game. She was excited throughout, as Lamar had been telling her that UMBC would make it to the tournament all year long, and it finally happened. She felt an incredible sense of pride that her son was able to partake in something so big and she was overwhelmed with the occasion at full time.
She recalls that at the age of four, Lamar was already into playing sports. So she helped him get onto football and basketball teams. He excelled more at basketball so she encouraged him to stay with the sport and that has helped him be the player he is today. She also recalls that since Lamar was young, “he got a glint in his eye every time he shot a basketball,” which showed her that he was meant to play the sport.
Lamar’s aunt also visited Bimini to watch him play. She describes herself as the fan that makes so much noise during games that people turn around and wonder “Who is this overly passionate fan?” She was also at the NCAA game and she says she lost her voice from cheering so loudly. She gets excited when the Retrievers get into a rhythm because shots start to fall and the team is able to win.
Freshman-guard Jose Placer also had family support at Bimini Jam. His father, mother and younger brother flew in from Orlando, Florida to see him play. His dad, Carlos Placer, said they had a peaceful trip and he has also been enjoying Bimini because the locals have been nice to them. He has visited the Bahamas prior to Bimini Jam, but he is satisfied with his first experience of the island of Bimini.
Carlos Placer drives to some of his son’s UMBC games and watches him on television when he cannot attend the game. He watched the Retrievers’ NCAA game against Virginia even though Placer was not yet a member of the team. Placer had agreed to play for UMBC in the Fall, but his family still celebrated the historic win with other Retriever fans. Carlos Placer even received calls from friends congratulating Placer on the win. He felt the significance of the game and it will be something he doesn’t forget.
Carlos Placer said that basketball runs in their family. At the age of four, Placer was already playing basketball. He said that Placer’s life until now has mostly been focused on the sport, and they have been fortunate enough to meet some great NBA players along the way. Placer even got the opportunity to be trained by ex-Boston Celtics guard Dee Brown.
The fans have shown their support throughout the tournament, cheering and chanting ‘defense’ to motivate the team, and Head Coach Ryan Odom believes their encouragement helped the team win games. “Any time the fans give us a boost it’s tremendous,” said Odom. “No doubt [that the fan support helped the team] when you hear people cheering positively for you that’s a big boost.”