The Christmas season is a time for sending and receiving gifts and spreading cheer to others. For Jorge Ebanks it is especially jolly this year as he is now playing professional basketball.
Ebanks recently signed a semi-professional contract to play with the Buffalo Stampede in the Atlantic Coast Professional Basketball League. The team plays in the New York metropolitan area and is a convenient move for the George Town native who is finishing up his studies at Daemen College in Amherst, near the city of Buffalo.
Ebanks, 24, spoke about how he went about turning pro.
“I decided to for go my senior season at Daemen and turn pro,” Ebanks said. “I was invited to tryout for the team over the summer by the former assistant coach at Daemen College Herb Richmond. He came to many of my games last season and is now the head coach of the Stampede. He felt like my game was ready for this level of basketball and its a great opportunity to get ready for overseas pro ball.
“I made the team and decided to sign a contract to play for them this season. I played my first game already and I had 16 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals (we won by 18 points). The pro game is a lot faster than college and I have adjusted to it very quickly. At this level everyone is fast, athletic and talented, so I got to do the little things to separate myself from others.
“I’m still attending Daemen College as a student as I am 18 credits shy of getting my Bachelor’s degree in Business Management which I should be getting next semester. This is a stepping stone in my (basketball) career. I finally got my chance to get my foot in the door so I’m going to make the best of this opportunity. I hope this can lead to bigger and better things in the future.”
The decision to turn pro is the latest endeavour for Ebanks to reach the upper echelons of the sport. The son of Mary Ebanks has been away at school in America for the last four years. He first went to a prep school in Maine, transferred to Finger Lakes Community College in upstate New York and then did two years at Daemen.
Ebanks states playing for Buffalo was a straight-forward option as he wanted to stay in New York. Interestingly monetary considerations had little impact on his choice.
“The terms of the contract is basically I signed with the team for the season. If I do good hopefully I can move on to a higher league which plays more next year. The amount really isn’t much because it’s not a high level of pro ball yet (the higher you go the more you’ll be paid) but I’m just happy that I got my opportunity. Where I go from here is up to me and the work I put in to get there.
“I wasn’t really looking at any teams or knew if any teams was looking at me because I was focused on my senior season and getting my degree first. I really like to focus on one thing before I move on to the next but I figure that if an opportunity presented itself I would take it. I felt like I made a good decision because I kind of got the best of both worlds. I’m playing pro basketball and at the same time I still have time to go to classes during the day so I can finish up my degree.
“Its not like the team is located in another state so I don’t have to move or anything which made my decision a lot easier. This opportunity is just a new chapter in my basketball career, all I ever wanted growing up playing basketball is an opportunity to showcase my talent. Now that I have got my opportunity I got to make the best of it.”
The transition to American life was not a hard one for Ebanks. He was raised in New York City and only lived in Cayman for about four to five years. He is one of six children as his brothers are Jason, Carlos and Michael Ebanks and his sisters are Lila and Suewade Ebanks.
In Cayman he has a long history with basketball having played from time he was in high school (at John Gray high) and joining the national team at age 17. He played alongside the likes of Collin Anglin and Antonio Thompson and got coaching from notable names in the sport such as Victor “Voot” O’Garro (Cayman’s technical director of basketball) and Redver Ebanks (the national women’s coach). Most will remember Ebanks from his days playing for perennial powerhouses George Town Sports Club in the Cayman Islands Basketball Association senior men’s league. He was among the league leaders in scoring and steals and was a big part of consecutive championship runs by George Town.
Ebanks is quick to say that his link with Cayman is not ancient history. In fact with national men’s coach Daniel Augustine in the process of tryouts for the 2011 men’s team, Ebanks states his service to Cayman basketball at an international level is far from over.
“I’m actually planning on coming back to the islands next summer and I’ve been talking to coach Voot about rejoining the men’s national team. It’s a great honour to wear the Cayman Islands jersey because you are playing for the name that is on the front of the jersey and not the back. I missed a couple of Island Games the past couple of years so I want to get back to that and try to bring that gold medal back to Cayman (which was always my goal because we always came close but just never got over that hump).
“I haven’t been able to make it back for about two or three years because basketball here is ongoing from summer onwards. Basketball demands so much of your time and if you really want to get better and take your game to the next level you have to make sacrifices. I also plan on going to Las Vegas next summer for pro camps where there will be scouts and agents looking to sign players to go overseas.
“After I’m done with that then I would like to come down to the islands. At this point I would like to thank the Lord for His blessings on me and my family for always being there for me and supporting my decisions.”