Valor girls learned to have a ball

The Women of Valor junior basketball team had a successful trip to South Carolina recently.

Accompanied by coach Redver Ebanks and chaperones Marcia Connor, Celia Hydes and Dwight Ebanks, they went to attend the Bud Childers Basketball Camp at Winthrop University.

‘The purpose of this trip was to expose these young ladies to basketball at a higher level, allow them to compare skills, meet the Winthrop players and see the hard work that it takes to become a college athlete,’ said Redver who is the national women’s basketball coach.

‘They also went through some vigorous shooting sessions that went on from nine in the morning till eight at night.

‘Because we were from the Cayman Islands we sparked a lot of interest from the locals that coveted our beautiful sandy beaches and turquoise waters.’

During the second day of the camp the squad of 19 was interviewed by their local news paper, the Rock Hill Herald.

‘The girls talked about our famous cassava cake and made them know about what they were missing by not coming to Cayman on vacation,’ added Redver.

The locals also learned of the direct flight to Cayman from Charlotte NC which is 30 minutes drive from Rock Hill.

‘I have been to many college camps over the years and I think that Winthrop conducts the best one so far.

‘The coaches really knew the game and they conveyed it well to the kids. I must say that I too have learned from the coaches and I’m looking forward to attending it again next year. I am extremely proud of the girls, yes there were some hiccups and a little too much talking to do at times but I realized that if they can stay together and grow as a team the future of female basketball in Cayman is limitless.’

Some of the Women of Valor players took home some awards and in doing so realised that just because they are from the tiny Cayman Islands that doesn’t mean they can’t aspire to be the best.

Amber Watson was the most improved player of the camp. Chloe Powery was the best free throw shoeter in her age group. April Ebanks and Reanna Hydes were two of three players that were ‘3 on 3’ champions.

Bud Childers is the Winthrop University women’s basketball team head coach. He said: ‘It is absolutely amazing that a group of young ladies from the Caribbean wanted this kind of experience.

‘I think we all win as coaches and players and campers when different cultures get together. Basketball bridges a lot of gaps.’

Redver added: ‘The experience for everyone was great but it would not have been possible with out the help of our sponsors: Admiral Administration Ltd, Cayman National Bank and Citco Fund Services. We thank you.

‘Also, Thank you to Foster’s Food Fair and Kirk’s Supermarket for allowing us to hold fundraisers at your venues.’

The Rock Hill Herald wrote: ‘Ebanks, known as ‘Coach Red’ by his players, has been bringing his girls to camps in the states for several years.

‘He has led trips to Raleigh, where they play at N.C. State, Duke and North Carolina. They have also been to Florida International in Miami.

‘Ebanks grew up playing basketball on the islands. He went to Florida International for college.

‘He didn’t play basketball in college, but returned to the Caymans and worked as an assistant for the man who coached him as a youngster. After a couple of years as an assistant, Ebanks was named women’s national basketball coach.

‘While at FIU, he formed a connection with Winthrop assistant coach Laquanda Dawkins.

‘Dawkins was an assistant at FIU at the time. That connection led to this week’s trip from the tiny island nation of some 50,000 people to Rock Hill.

‘Ebanks got sponsorships from several island businesses and the girls held bake sales to raise the more than $12,000 needed to make the trip.

‘Cassava cakes are a favourite on the islands and were a mainstay at the bake sales. He and several players were all smiles when describing the delicacies.’

The paper mentions Tamara Smith, 14, and her twin sister Samara who attended the camp together.

The paper added: ‘Ebanks coaches about 65 girls ranging from primary school age to high schoolers. Two years ago, one of his players was noticed by a small college at the Deep South Classic in Raleigh.

‘Cassianne Lawrence, a 5ft 11in guard/forward, recently finished her freshman year at King College in Bristol, Tennessee.

‘That is what Ebanks is working toward. He said a lot of people won’t look at the small schools like King College for athletics.

‘I am going to find that small school and get my girls there,’ Ebanks said. ‘One of the reasons I started coaching was because of the limited opportunities for girls in sports.

‘I think all these girls have potential. Some will take different avenues, but most of them have some potential to continue playing basketball. I want them to be exposed to how the game is played.’

The paper also wrote: ‘Ebanks said one of his players told him she was being shown things he had already taught them. ‘That’s fine. That just re-enforces what I tell them,’ he said.

‘The Cayman Island girls’ flight arrived in Charlotte on Thursday night. After a stop for dinner, they arrived on campus around midnight.

Still, they awoke Friday morning ready to go.

‘Dawkins said Ebanks’ girls were excited and eager to learn. ‘He has some young ladies with raw talent. Red’s goal is to get them to college. He just wants to give back,’ Dawkins said.

Shanice Ebanks, no relation to Coach Red, is a 13-year-old wing player. She said she had learned some new moves in the camp’s first day. ‘We learned to cheat and pop and how to shoot properly,’ she said.

The players practice three times a week after school. Ebanks holds the practices outdoors because the indoor gym was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.

‘They practice in the heat of the afternoon sun because the island culture, and the girls’ parents, would frown on them being out late at night,’ Ebanks said.

‘So the sun may be coming down at 87 degrees, but the heat coming up from the asphalt on the courts feels like 112. So it is a tradeoff.

‘We have sun, beaches and water, but we don’t have facilities like this,’ Ebanks said with an arm panning the vastness of the Winthrop Coliseum.

‘Our soccer stadium doesn’t hold this many people,’ Ebanks grinned.

Felicia Connor, a 12-year-old point guard, commented on the temperature of the Winthrop Coliseum. ‘It’s definitely cooler,’ she said.

Childers said: ‘It is absolutely amazing that a group of young ladies from the Caribbean wanted this kind of experience.

‘I think we all win as coaches and players and campers when different cultures get together. Basketball bridges a lot of gaps.’