Local basketball has been working with youth players since inception. Now the sport can boast another national youth team.
Last month saw the formation of the Cayman Under 16 basketball side. The squad is being guided by national women’s coach Redver Ebanks (head coach) and national men’s coach Daniel Augustine (who is serving as Ebanks’ assistant).
Forming the team is a collection of 12 up-and-coming starlets in the sport. They are: Imani Abdul-Jabbar, Shaneika Bodden, Felecia Connor, April Ebanks, Monique Ebanks, Rochelle Gardener, La-Torae Nixon, Julisa Pars, Hannah Parchment, Chloe Powery, Shante Whitelock, Rosemarie Wilson.
Coach Augustine states that the U16 squad serves an important role in the development of women’s basketball in Cayman.
“This is the first time in Cayman basketball’s history that there is an U16 team,” Augustine said. “This is something Redver and I have wanted to set up for some time. We wanted the kids to get international exposure, the more the better for their progression.
“These girls have two years to develop and then move on to the U19 national team. Certainly we have promising young players in La-Torae and company who are all looking to train and get to the next level. We’re at a developmental stage and one of the end results is that these girls will make it on the women’s national team.”
Amazingly the U16 squad already has private sector sponsorship for its upcoming international competitions. Last week Jacques Scott and DRG Construction Company Ltd sponsored a set of shoes for the team. The sneakers are the Nike Air Max variety and are red and white colour, matching the red and white national uniforms.
Arguably the most accomplished player on the national team is Nixon, who went to Turkey this summer to attend the 2010 Children of the World basketball camp. At age 13 she is arguably Cayman’s best youth player. Nixon states that she is honoured to be representing Cayman again and that she is appreciative of the community support thus far.
“It makes me feel good to be so young yet playing for a national team,” Nixon said. “It’s awesome, for them to have sponsored us. It spares us the expense of buying the shoes.”
Initially they were to be put in use for the Central Basket youth basketball tournament in Chiapas, Mexico last month. The FIBA-sanctioned tournament was postponed at the last minute due to financial reasons.