One of the realities about going to school abroad is the change in weather.
For most Caymanian students being subject to chilly temperatures and freezing days can be a great shock.
One young person who can attest to that is Deandre Simpson, 20, who currently goes to school in New Hampshire in the US.
‘It was a culture shock,’ Simpson said. ‘It felt weird experiencing snow and blizzards. It was actually just below zero recently.
‘When I go back I’ll have to brace myself for more of that cold weather. It gets around at least 30 degrees and it’s actually 10-120 degrees colder in January and February.
‘It’s all very different compared to the sandy beaches I’m used to here at home.’
Simpson is in Cayman until Saturday after arriving here two weeks ago on Christmas holidays.
While here he spent time with family and caught the finals of the Appleby U19 Basketball League at the Arts and Recreation Center at Camana Bay.
What makes Simpson different from a lot of his peers is his position as a basketball prodigy aiming to go to the next level by plying his skills abroad.
Like many young men he got his start in basketball through the local youth leagues. He played a prominent part on the U19 scene for a few years and even played in the national men’s league last season.
He was actually a big part of the Silver Bullets team that made it to the division one semi-finals (which lost in three games to the Esso Blazers).
The Savannah native now attends Hesser College in Manchester as a freshman and is chasing a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. He transferred from the University College of the Cayman Islands where he did a certificate program in accounting.
The muscular 6’5 Simpson is the starting forward on Hesser’s men’s basketball team and says his game has improved in tremendous fashion.
‘I’ve been attending Hesser since last September and I’m trying to focus on good grades and getting better in basketball.
‘It was really my best option after Redver Ebanks took me and a couple guys up there in March. They liked me and wanted me to come onboard.
‘Everything has worked out good so far. I felt I’ve got better overall. My handling has improved, my shooting is better and I play wiser: box-out on rebounds, try not to block every shot, keep out of foul trouble, things like that.’
Interestingly enough Simpson is not the only Caymanian at the school. West Bayer Jerome Narcisse is the team’s other starting forward.
The 6’4 Narcisse, a basketball star in his own right, is currently a sophomore majoring in Business.
In addition Catherine Ebanks plays with the Hesser women’s team. The 5’3 guard is listed as a freshman majoring in Graphics Design.
Simpson talked about how he felt having other Caymanians, especially Narcisse, at the school.
‘Seeing familiar faces up there definitely makes me feel more comfortable. With Jerome there in particular I know I can rely on him on and off the court.’
The grandson of Nadine and John Nixon has impressed many school officials, who have in turn urged him to take his game to the next level.
‘Our season started in November and my best game was 20 points and 11 rebounds against a local community college in early December.
‘Jerome and I have been really key pieces for the team. Our coach David Cooper has been very impressed by us. He even talks about us going to a ‘better’ school (like division two or even a division one school if we can).
‘He says he could see us going overseas after college and trying professional European basketball.’
With the pay level currently seen across the pond it would be a huge deal for the young men and local basketball. Bear in mind European hoops is so profitable even NBA players (like Josh Childress) have shifted over there.
However Simpson is at Hesser on a government scholarship and is taking the idea of moving elsewhere slowly.
‘I’m looking around at other division two schools for September. I’m not really focused on any one school though Franklin Pierce (in New Hampshire) looks nice.
‘At this point I’d only move if a school offered me a full scholarship. I’ve made a lot of friends at Hesser, the classes have been alright, my GPA is around 3.4/3.5 and the school is ok on the whole.
‘All I’m focusing on is the fact that for the next four years I’ll be able to play basketball and study for a degree.’
Once the brother of young hoopster Jovanni Simpson leaves the island, Cayman might not see much of him after that.
‘I’ll probably come back in the summer,’ Deandre said. ‘It looks like I’ll be out of the men’s league this year. It all depends on whether my coach wants me to stay in New Hampshire and train with the team.’