Hooping it up in Carolina

Women’s basketball can be just as intense as the men’s version.

Ladies play with emotion, hustle for loose balls and go hard on the court.

A recent trip to the US hoped to add those features and provide the ladies with similar skills to the guys.

The Women of Valour, a ladies basketball team, recently travelled to Winthrop University in Rockhill, South Carolina.

The team took part in a youth development camp for young girls aimed at nurturing their skill set.

The squad is scheduled to arrive back in Grand Cayman today after leaving last Thursday.

Fourteen girls aged 12-18 went on the trip. They were: Felecia Connor, April Ebanks, Reanna Hydes, Tracey Hydes, Andrea Jackson, Shana Linwood, Christina and Christsania McLean, Sheneka Moore, Emenike Myles, Chloe Powery, Letanya Thompson, Amber Watler and Rosemarie Wilson.

They were accompanied by chaperones Celia Hydes (Tracey’s mom), Marcia Connor (Felecia’s mom) and Holly-Ann Anderson (Amber’s mom).

Redver Ebanks is the coach of the squad and before leaving on the trip with the team he expressed the idea behind attending the camp.

‘The camp is basically an individual session put on by the university to help with its recruiting and talent searching.

‘There is a possibility they could be approached to play in the US but the main goal is skill development.’

Ebanks states he has taken groups of female players there in the past and is impressed with the camp’s impact.

‘I’ve been to the camp last year and it’s pretty good. The skills taught are very useful to the kids and you could tell the kids had a better understanding of the game.

‘What the camp does so well is give our girls an opportunity to play kids their age who are more developed in basketball. It gives them something to look forward to.’

Even though Ebanks downplays the notion of US coaches scouting Cayman players to play abroad he did admit girls have been approached and later played at US colleges.

‘I have seen interest from US coaches in the Cayman players in the past. Cassianne Lawrence was approached by the coach at Kings College in Tennessee before going to school there.

‘However, most girls at this age are not heavily recruited.’

One of the more remarkable things about the trip was the funding behind it. With no major sponsors on board, the trip was made possible essentially by bake and cake sales and other small-scale fundraisers by the players.

In spite of those hardships the majority of players looked forward to the camp. Among them was Rosemarie Wilson.

Wilson, 13, is set to graduate from middle school this summer and start at John Gray High School in September. She said she was eager to go to the camp and learn.

‘I feel good. It’s a good experience for me. I went to it already last year and I hope to learn more from the camp this year.’

As Wilson states she picked up much of the technical aspects of the game.

‘At first we practiced with the other girls before playing against them. I learned a lot. Some of the things I learned were how to shoot, cross-over (maintaining a dribble while putting the ball through your own legs) and the cheek step (a stutter step used during dribble penetration to fake defenders and get a easier shot).’

As Wilson states the camp is not easy as the other girls are physical. Nevertheless she looks forwarding to learning new tricks.

‘The girls are tough up there. They play like boys. They’re more active and they train like how the boys train.

‘I’ve actually forgotten some of my basketball moves so I hope to learn how to dribble with my left hand as I’m right-handed, do a reverse lay-up and generally get a refresher on all the little things.’

Wilson’s situation is unique in that her sporting background is in netball. In fact when she’s not taking over on the court she can be seen playing for local club Rising Stars (she was on their A team this year).

As she admits her development in basketball has come through much insistence.

‘I must say thanks to Coach Redver because he kept on top of me and dragged me out to games. He was a big reason I went to practice more often.

‘I love netball because it’s such a family thing for me. My sister Tenesha Wilson and my mom Elvira Zayas played netball growing up. They inspired me to be in sports in general.

‘I tried out track in primary school and I did a little bit of it in middle school during years seven and eight at George Hicks High School.

‘I must admit I like basketball a little bit more than netball because of the freedom you have with the ball on the court.’