Youth basketball players in the Cayman Islands all strive to be the best in the various competitions. Few have persevered as long without a championship as Raheim Robinson.
The born and bred George Town native finally got a youth hoops title last month. Robinson, 18, was the star of the Wolves side that won the Appleby Under-19 Basketball League. In a rematch of last year’s final, the squad defeated the Shockwaves of JML International Ltd 76-70. He states becoming champion was a long, hard road to take.
“It feels spectacular,” Robinson said. “I played six years and never won once. It’s the first (youth basketball) championship I’ve ever won. It also came in my last year (of eligibility) in the league which made it more special. I was hungry for it. They (the Shockwaves) took it away from us last time. I had to win this year.
“I believe we were cheated last year. I got kicked out of that game due to technical fouls. I couldn’t lose again.”
The son of Tara Campbell and Christopher ‘Jeffo’ Robinson had a stellar game. He posted 30 points, seven assists, six rebounds and three steals. He had help from Neith Rheingold (14 points and eight rebounds) and Peter Grant (14 points, five assists and four steals). All gave head coach Duran ‘Trini’ Whittaker his second basketball championship in the 2010 local hoops calendar (the other being the national men’s title last August).
Robinson flashed a terrific stroke during the finals as he also nailed five three-pointers. Then again that touch was present all season long as he was second in the league in scoring averaging 20 points per game.
The strength of his perimeter game is noteworthy considering he started out as merely a driver to the basket. His slashing ability served him well this season too as he was fifth in passing with 3.8 assists per game. He states the growth in his abilities came about through much effort.
“I played better, for sure. But I rushed a lot of chances and made mistakes on defence. I was feeling it from the perimeter and right now I’m comfortable with my shooting. The form you see came with work. It was day-in and day-out shooting as much as I could. Everyday I tried to get in as much shots as possible.”
That work ethic is not lost on his team. Coach Whittaker states it was due to Robinson that the Wolves won. “Raheim went off, he’s truly the reason we won the final,” Whittaker said. “He hit big shot after big shot. It was sweet seeing him entertain the crowd.”
Robinson’s run to the championship comes after stints with other teams in years past. He has been to the U19 finals three straight times starting in 2008 with the Silver Bullets youth squad (which lost to the Esso Blazers). Robinson states the desire to finally win the title has a lot to do with the prestige of the competition.
“It is important and it’s good for the island too. To have that type of system I can see where it’s good because you have playing time here (at that level) before going off island to play (at college). There is lots of talent here and national team potential. Cayman can make a solid men’s and women’s team in the future.”
Another interesting part of Robinson’s championship was the focus he needed to simply play basketball. He is a talented football player who has played in local competitions and for the U23 national team. He has a full-time job and a heavy load of college courses.
In addition the Walkers Road resident is one of six children and stays with his mother’s side of the family (he has three younger sisters and a younger brother plus a brother in Canada on his father’s side). Robinson, who turns 19 in July, readily admits time management plays a huge role in his life.
“I work at Cayman Airways as a customer service representative and I am currently attending the University College of the Cayman Islands. Luckily my employer is flexible and allows me to take enough credits to be a full-time student. I’m doing five classes right now, pursuing an Associate’s degree in Business Administration.
“I also play baseball and represented Cayman in the past at a national level. I’m getting back into football now though I will keep my schedule open for basketball. I want to keep both of them up so that if I go to school abroad I can do both basketball and football.
“It (the last three months) has been tiring. I’ve had to go to work at times from 4am, including the day of the final. But I stuck it out. I tried to get as much sleep as I could. I just wanted to win.”
Though his commitments are plentiful, basketball will continue to play a big part of Robinson’s life. In the coming months the young man intends to play in the men’s league. He states he is hoping to eventually take his talents overseas.
“I want to play on the men’s team for the Wolves. Trini says they’re putting together a division two team and I’d like to try that. I also have my sights on going away to college. Through (Academy football club manager) Winston Chung, I attended the Academy scouting fair. Hiram College was interested in me along with Salem International University and the University of Wisconsin.
“My mum is helping to pay for my education now but I’d like a government scholarship. The plan would be to do two years here and then two years abroad. Hopefully I can get help with a sports scholarship of some sort.”