Young men are heading back to the basketball court this month in their droves.
The national Boys U19 basketball league is currently in its third week of play.
The league is being put on by the Cayman Islands Basketball Association.
Games are played Tuesdays at 6pm and 7:45pm with an additional match at 4pm on Saturdays at the Cox Court on Eastern Avenue in George Town.
Games began around 30 September and are expected to conclude the first week of December.
News of the league is just coming to light due to a slow start CIBA officials attribute to sudden match re-scheduling and several weather-related game cancellations.
The league has six teams in the Wolves, Silver Bullets, Future SC, Tarheels, Esso Blazers and Team Redemption.
Each team has around 10 players, creating a record-high turnout of some 60 kids in the league.
Four of the squads, in the Wolves, Silver Bullets, Tarheels and Esso Blazers, are youth teams bearing the same name as their senior men’s A league counterparts.
As CIBA Technical Director Victor ‘Voot’ O’Garro explains the purpose of that endeavour is to establish a type of recruiting system for the sport.
‘All of the A teams are encouraged to ‘adopt’ a team in the U19 league. The league is important as a feeder for the senior men’s programme.’
Currently the national U19 team makes up the core of the league. According to league officials those players were separated into the various teams and from there they were responsible for recruiting enough youngsters in the community to form a team.
As O’Garro explains this has lead to a highly competitive league.
‘The teams are pretty balanced. For example Stephen Shaw plays for Blazers and has a promising squad. On the other hand Wolves have guys like Tiko Moore and big man Daryl Paddyfoot. Then Tarheels have Josh Cotterell. Moreover for Colin Anglin’s West Bay team called Redemption you have Kevin Connolly.
‘There are certainly no soft teams as every team can match any team.’
Some of the other influential players O’Garro mentioned were Deandre Simpson, David Taylor, Jonothan Powery, Raheim Robinson and Haymond Rankine.
O’Garro went on to say that those players are sure to make the league entertaining due to their exposure to teams off-island.
‘Ever year we have seen improvement in play in the league. We are optimistic that foreign competition will make players get better hence every year we take kids to camps abroad.’
The league is currently in its 12th year. It began in 1996 under the guidance of O’Garro and former CIBA President Tony Scott.
The two essentially laid the groundwork for local basketball with the development of U14, U16 and senior leagues.
As O’Garro explains the success of their efforts was immediate.
‘In 1997 the U19 team won the senior men’s league and went undefeated during the regular season and the playoffs.
‘The core players from that team started squads in the senior men’s league and were the catalysts for a boom in that league.’
For O’Garro the importance of the league today rests in giving kids another way to be active and get a higher education.
‘The league is important for the further development of the sport and to keep children meaningfully occupied doing something they enjoy.
‘The hope is from the league we can see prospective players being sent off to high schools, colleges and universities abroad on scholarships.
‘We have quite a few young players abroad such as Jerome Narcisse in Kings College, Tennessee.’
News of Cayman-based players Colin Anglin, Colin Bodden and Dwight O’Garro travelling to Mexico and being considered by teams there to play in the local pro league has reportedly opened the eyes of many young players.
As O’Garro states the trip shows Cayman is a competent nation in basketball and can produce professional players.
‘Their trip shows the high stature of basketball on this island. For local players to leave this rock and play at a high level shows the people of Cayman are well-versed in basketball.
‘A lot of athletes here don’t know that. For the young kids it shows basketball is not just recreation. It could be life, an employment opportunity and a chance to become a professional in something.
‘I hope it also shows them that having the right attitude, discipline and deportment are very important.’