Manzanares loved Turkish delights


The next youth basketball
competition gets under way soon and one of the youngsters slated to take part
is Travis Manzanares.

The Bodden Town native is expected
to be one of over 70 kids taking part in the Appleby Under-19 basketball
league. The Sir Vassel Johnson Hall at the University College of the Cayman
Islands is expected to serve as the venue for league matches.

For Manzanares, 13, the Under-19
league is his first local competition after travelling to Turkey this summer.
The son of Darlene and Felix Manzanares Senior was one of three Caymanians who
went to Istanbul as part of the Children of the World 2010 basketball camp.
Joining him were La-Torae Nixon, also 13, and local coach Shawn Pitterson.

The trio had an all-expenses paid
trip thanks to the Turkish Basketball Federation in conjunction with the
International Basketball Federation, commonly known as FIBA. Both bodies held
the camp and hosted the trio at a local high school. The camp coincided with
the 2010 World Basketball Championships taking place in the country. Some 24
international teams such as the US, Argentina and reigning champions Spain took

Manzanares, who turns 14 in December,
states the journey was a memorable one in numerous ways.

“It was nice, we did the
fundamentals in the camp,” Manzanares said. “I saw different countries and how
they play and their cultures and languages. How they know the game, how they
study it and progress was interesting. Outside of basketball we went on a city
tour of the capital and we saw two US national team games featuring Croatia and
Brazil. I saw big names like Chauncey Billups, Leandro Barbosa and Derrick

“There was a moment where we
brought out our flag and so many people clapped for us. That was special. I
also got an interview with the Turkish TV channel. On the whole people were
surprised we were there. Not a lot of people knew us as a country or that we
existed. Just being there with so many other countries and telling them about
basketball in Cayman and what we do as an island and as a nation was great. I
was proud to tell them about our country and our culture. I’m also proud to be
part of the first group for the camp.”

The Clifton Hunter High School year
nine student got a special treat in being able to see one of his favourite NBA
stars play live in Kevin Durant. Manzanares states after seeing the reigning
scoring champion in person it was not a shock that the US won the world

“As far as the US winning gold I’m
not surprised. I’m proud of them, especially Durant as he was one of the most
valuable players in the sport this year. Initially I was surprised that the
other big names like LeBron, Kobe and D-Wade weren’t there but Durant showed
that the US team can do so much and they have all the talent.”

Prior to the Turkey trip Manzanares
was a relative unknown in basketball. He played in this year’s PricewaterhouseCoopers
U16 league and had only been on the scene the last two years. His compatriots
on the journey were more well-known. Nixon has been in local hoops the last
three years, was the star of the last Appleby U19 league and has played in
almost every competition from the youth ranks up to the national women’s
league. Pitterson has coached at all levels of local basketball, with his last
stint being in charge of the Esso Blazers adult team in Cayman’s national men’s

Interestingly Manzanares states he
knew Nixon for years. “With Shawn and La-Torae we stuck together in Turkey and
we were in the same group. We did everything together. I just met Shawn for the
first time at the camp and I thought he was a good person.

“With La-Torae I’ve actually known
her a long time through school. We both went to Truth For Youth school, I was a
year ahead of her. We came through the ranks under Physical Education coach
Orvin Palacio. He worked with us in basketball and helped me win a lot of trophies
at the primary school level.”

One of the biggest reasons why
Manzanares is in basketball is his mum Darlene. A sports enthusiast in her own
right, she states she urged Travis along with her other children to take up a
sport early on.

“I’m a sports mum,” Darlene said.
“All of my kids had to do sports growing up. I loved sports, any and everything
I was into except cricket. I tried to encourage my kids at their games and I
got excited about everything that they did. My eldest son Felix, 24, did
basketball and softball in school and my daughter Yolanni, 12, does basketball
and she is on the Women of Valour team and a year seven Clifton Hunter student.

“With Travis I got stressed early
on because his grades weren’t good. He’s a set one student all the way in
school now. But the only way he plays is if he brings home nothing less than a
B. That’s our agreement.”

Ultimately Manzanares is hooked on
basketball and he states he intends to be a steady figure in the sport for
years to come.

“I did baseball in the form of
T-ball from age five. But basketball is something that just hit me. Something
told me to stop doing other sports and do that so that’s what I did. I took it
serious at age 10 when I was in grade five at primary school. I really had a
feel for it. I guess after my aunt got me my own basketball hoop I never
stopped doing it. I’ve always liked basketball and played it a lot. I wasn’t
good years ago but I liked it.

“In fact I don’t think I’ll ever
stop basketball, especially if I keep progressing in it.”