Many local kids love basketball whether they play it or watch it.
Most hit the courts around Cayman when they get a chance. A select few turn that passion into playing the game in Cayman’s national leagues and in leagues overseas.
Among them is George Town native Jorge ‘Steamy’ Ebanks.
The 23-year-old is currently a student at Finger Lakes Community College in upstate New York. Ebanks is a sophomore and is set to transfer to a four year university soon.
Ebanks plays for the school team (which competes in the National Junior College Athletic Association) and he has excelled in many areas.
Ebanks has provided plenty of offense in averaging 16 points a game, shooting 39 percent from long-range and 48 percent from inside the arch.
In addition the six foot shooting guard leads the team in rebounds, assists and steals.
The smooth, quick-talking Ebanks was eager to talk about his experience playing basketball abroad.
‘I feel like God has blessed me with the talent I have to play basketball so I try to play every game like it’s my last. I am a very competitive person and I’m always striving to be the best player I can be.
‘I love to be around people and meet new people and playing basketball has done that for me.
‘Basketball has also taken me places I never thought I would go (Spain, Greece and England just to name a few) and basketball has helped me mature and taught me skills such as leadership and team work.
‘Being at college is a great experience. I learn new things to elevate my game to a higher level. I work hard putting in the extra time to get better and stronger. I feel to be a great player at any sport you have to put in hard work, dedication and sacrifice.’
Ebanks has been away at school in America for the last three years. He first went to a prep school in Maine before transferring to Finger Lakes.
In a way the transition to American schooling was not a hard one for Ebanks. He was raised in New York City and only lived in Cayman for about four to five years.
Nevertheless Ebanks’ Cayman roots are strong. His mother is Mary Ebanks and he is one six children.
His brothers are Jason, Carlos and Michael Ebanks and his sisters are Lila and Suewade Ebanks.
Most will remember Jorge from his days playing for perennial powerhouses George Town Sports Club in the Cayman Islands Basketball Association senior men’s league.
In fact Ebanks was among the league leaders in scoring and steals and was a big part of consecutive championship runs by George Town.
Before that many can recall him dominating the court as a high school star at John Gray High School. Then again Steamy (a nickname he got in high school) was a natural athlete and competed in various sports like track and field, softball and football.
However Jorge was a fast learner and a natural at basketball and it wasn’t long before he was representing Cayman in international competitions.
‘I started playing for the Cayman Islands national senior men’s basketball team when I was 17. I think being around all the older guys and having a great coach in Coach Voot helped me mature a lot. Guys like Collin Anglin, Antonio Thompson, Al Nixon and Andrew Wisdom influenced me a great deal.
‘I feel God has blessed me by putting great and positive people in my life such as my family, (CIBA Official) Shawn Pitterson, (National Women’s Coach) Redver Ebanks and Collin Anglin. They are always there for me when I need help and advice.’
With New York just shifting away from its usual snowy winter into a slightly warmer spring Ebanks talked about his longing for Cayman.
‘I love Cayman. It’s a beautiful place and the people are caring and great. The people are a lot different here in New York and in New York City where I grew up.
‘I’m glad my mother took me over there to experience her culture, where she grew up and to meet a lot of my family. I can’t wait to get back.’
In fact even with the hoopla surrounding college basketball in the United States these days courtesy of ‘March Madness’ Ebanks has his mind squarely on the current state of basketball here.
‘I feel like basketball in the Cayman Islands is still rising and has some great talent. But because of football and other traditional sports basketball doesn’t get the attention and support it deserves.
‘But over the past couple of years more people seem to have taken an interest in basketball. I’ve seen where they have come out and supported the sport in a bigger way.’
Seeing this growth in local basketball is astounding to Ebanks chiefly because of how much he longed to see it grow in his younger days.
‘As a kid coming up in Cayman I always felt we were a bunch of talented young basketball players that needed exposure and a chance to show people that we could play with the best.
‘Thanks to guys like Shawn and Redver taking us to basketball camps overseas we got exposure and an opportunity to show our talents. I hope they will continue to do things like that with the younger generation of up-and-coming players in Cayman.’
Like many young basketball lovers Ebanks still has dreams of turning pro. With his jump shot, quick feet and court vision and burgeoning basketball knowledge it’s certainly not a far-fetched fantasy.
But for now he’s content to take things on a daily basis and focus more on the legacy he can leave behind.
‘I want my experience to show young kids coming up that it doesn’t matter where you come from or how big your island is. Those things don’t determine who you become and what you can accomplish if you set your mind on what you want in life.
‘If you look at the NBA today some of the best players come from all parts of the world. They show that it’s all about how hard you are willing to work and how much you’re willing to sacrifice to become someone great. Nothing worthwhile comes easy.
‘I play basketball because I love the game and I hope one day that my experience and knowledge as a ball player can be passed down to the next generation of kids coming up.’