Ovaine’s epic legacy

At first glance it would be easy to overlook Ovaine Monteith in local sports.

He’s not all that tall, he has a quiet demeanour and his greying hair point towards to a man who has past his prime.

Yet Monteith has been an integral local sports figure, particularly in basketball, for more than the last three decades.

Interestingly enough his name came to the fore recently when the Guy Harvey’s Ocean Foundation All Stars won the 2009 Cayman Islands Netball Association Mixed League.

The consensus was he was a key person on the team for his contributions on and off the court.

Monteith, 44, explained his role on the squad.

‘I played with All Stars in this year’s mixed league just like I have been for at least the last four years.

‘This year though Lyneth (Monteith, All Stars club President) asked me for help with the fitness aspect of the game and so I was very hands-on with the team’s training.’

Ovaine has more than a passing presence in netball with his involvement in the sport dating back to about a decade.

‘When Jean Pierre was around I would be with the boys’ team that played against the women’s national team for practice at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex netball courts.’

It’s no surprise the West Bay resident is into netball considering his love for basketball.

It all started for Monteith back in his youth while in grade school at George Town Primary.

‘In primary school I’d always shoot around a basketball after school,’ Monteith said. ‘I’d always see other boys doing it and being good at it.

‘I always thought to myself ‘I could be good at that too’ so that’s what I was determined to do.’

Like many youngsters basketball would be one of many sports vying for his attention during his school days. From football and cricket to rugby, badminton and track and field there was hardly a sport Monteith did not dabble in.

Much of his desire to be active in sports Monteith (who lived in George Town at one point) credits to his formative years as a toddler in Jamaica.

‘My family is originally from Jamaica and they came to Cayman in September 1973 when I was eight years old.

‘Growing up in Jamaica I was like all the other boys. I had to get into something, football and cricket at the least. If I didn’t people would think something wrong with me.’

It was not until he finished public schooling in Cayman at the Cayman High School (now the George Hicks campus) did he focus his energies on basketball.

‘Basically after high school I dropped everything but basketball,’ Monteith stated. ‘But I don’t have any regrets.

‘What I love about basketball is the competition. Someone is always trying to take you out, even now. It gives you great motivation to keep playing and improving.’

The result would be an extensive hoops pedigree that dates back to 1981 when he jumped onto the hoops scene as a member of the Tarheels junior team at just 16 years-old.

In 1982 he would latch onto the Tarheels’ senior team and continue to play a significant role up until the 2008 season when he hung up his sneakers.

Over the years he would prove to be an exceptional talent, winning a number of scoring titles and MVP awards.

His most notable basketball skill was his jump shot that soared straight and true, regardless of the conditions at the Cayman Islands Basketball Association Court in George Town.

That feat would leave many basketball followers wagging their tongues. Even Monteith had to admit he was a force.

‘I must say I was a pretty good player back in my day,’ Monteith said. ‘I was the primary shooting guard though I’d play the point (guard position) if my team needed me.’

As one might expect his skills drew the attention of many local officials who readily pushed him onto the national stage.

His first time on the Cayman national basketball team was in 1982 at the Carifta Games in Jamaica at only 17.

He would be on the Cayman team again in 1989 at the Carifta Games in Barbados. This time he would assume the role of assistant coach at the tender age of 24 (oddly enough he would become a FIBA level one certified coach 18 years later).

From there he played in a CARICOM tournament in 1990 (in Trinidad) and 1991 (in Jamaica).

Interestingly enough it was not until 1999 that he got his first Island Games experience. Those Games took place in Gotland (south of Sweden).

He would be joined on that team by local sports figures Cory Thompson, Al Nixon, Mike Morgan, Gary ‘Butcher’ McLaughlin, Luigi Moxam and Andrew Wisdom.

In 2001 he would return to the Island Games, this time taking place on the Isle of Man between Great Britain and Ireland. Among his team-mates were Antonio Thompson and Antonio Hanna alongside familiar faces in Moxam and Wisdom.

Monteith’s presence on both trips reaped dividends as Cayman came back with two silver medals.

His last international contest was in 2004 when he was part of a Cayman Select team that took part in an Easter basketball tournament in Jamaica.

Armed with the likes of Collin Anglin, Dwight O’Garro and Jorge Ebanks Cayman beat a Jamaican all star team and the Jamaican national team at the national stadium.

Though his glory days are behind him Monteith continues to play recreationally.

This summer he played in the local association’s indoor basketball league at the Arts and Recreation Center at Camana Bay.

He was on the division two squad called ‘Beer Trouble,’ which finished third at 4-5.

After so many years spent playing outdoors the indoor court was a breath of fresh air for Monteith.

‘I was just out there to exercise but I must say it was very easy on my legs. I can certainly tell you playing on the hard court is not fun sometimes.’

For all his exploits on the court Monteith has been able to find great success off of it.

He went to the International College of the Cayman Islands and received a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting in 2007.

He was able to land a job as the chief accountant at Wendy’s that year and has been crunching their numbers on West Bay Road ever since.

In addition he was blessed with a wife and three daughters in 20 year-old Patriann, 16 year-old Shanice and nine year-old D’Andra.

Shanice is a notable football player, serving on the Women’s United team that won this year’s Women’s league title and on the U17 national girls team that recently went to Haiti as part of the youth World Cup qualifiers.

In spite of his basketball background Monteith is proud of his daughter.

‘I’m very happy for her that she is taking on football. Whether it was track and field or basketball or whatever I’d be happy for her choice. Whatever she loves she should do.

‘In my opinion football actually gives her the best chance of getting a scholarship for college compared to basketball or track.

‘She really loves football, in fact in the same way I love basketball. I often joke with people she got the disease from me.’

Ultimately Ovaine’s love for his family mirrors his passion for basketball: a daily joy that fades little with time.

‘I used to walk round with a basketball when I was younger. Now I carry a basketball and a pair of athletic shoes in my car.

‘Anytime I go on the court I give it 100 percent. I could still play if I want to.’