Girls set the pace as hoops bounce back

Women’s basketball is making steps to keep its place on Cayman’s sports scene in 2009.

Three different leagues are set to get underway early this year. First up are the Under-14 and women’s leagues, both taking place this month.

The exact starting date for the U14 league is not clear at press time though the women’s league is slated to begin 18 January.

Both leagues are slated to run until March.

At that point the U16 league will be up and running and last until May.

From there the U19 league will see its 2009 season start in September and run until December.

All of those leagues are looking to build off the momentum seen in the 2008 Cayman Islands Basketball Association U19 Girls League.

The league generated much hype in local basketball circles and saw much publicity in the local media.

Four teams competed for nearly four months from 27 September until 13 December. League frontrunners Monarchs emerged the undisputed champions beating a solid Lynx team in the finals.

For CIBA women’s coach Redver Ebanks the U19 league went according to plan.

‘I believe the best team won [in the Monarchs]. The most improved team to me was the Comets as they won most of their games in the latter half of the season. The girls played excellent with players like Shana Linwood, Latorea Nixon and Andrea Jackson stepping up on offense.

‘It feels good seeing the league run well as it was good exposure for a lot of young players.

‘The level of play was higher this year and better than it has been before. With the average of age of the players being 15 we’re in a good position in that most of the girls in the league can keep playing for another four to five years.’

The reason for the abundance of young talent reportedly lies in the aftermath of Ivan. League officials say recruitment was hampered after Ivan, practice times were limited and a ‘two year gap’ emerged with many potential players near college age.

Nevertheless Ebanks felt the high level of play he saw in the 2008 league came from many girls rising to the occasion.

‘We discovered a lot of talent and a lot of positives. Plenty of players were good and stepped out of their shell and performed.’

This year Ebanks was coach of the Comets girls team and was a coach for the All Star Colours team for the All Star game.

Arguably the star of this year’s league was MVP Catherine Ebanks of the Lynx. Catherine was the league’s top scorer and excelled in a number of areas on the court.

However, as Ebanks points out, a trio of girls deserve special mention.

‘Three of the players that stood out for me were Christsania McLean, Tracey Hydes and Felecia Connor. Christsania could always defend other players but she stepped up on offense. She was a leader, played the most games on her team and kept her squad organized.

‘Tracey was one of the younger players who did better offensively and improved a lot. She played more, got more minutes and consequently shot the ball a lot better.

‘As far as Felecia goes all I can say is she is just awesome for her age.’

Ebanks expects to see many of the players in the U19 league star in the other competitions, with the majority being in the U16 league.

In his opinion having the girls play in more games is a good sign for local basketball’s future.

‘Our girls have the ability to play the same number of games as a US high school. All of the youth leagues [U19, U16 and U14 combined] offer 30 games alone this year and to me that should be the minimum going forward.’

Anyone interested in getting involved in girls basketball can contact Redver Ebanks at 926-9335.