Local basketball is always looking to get players abroad to develop their skills.
The latest initiative being done is getting foreign coaches here to evaluate talent. One of the most recent coaches to do so is Kevin Wills. The Washington, D.C. native was here studying the national Under-16 girls team.
Wills, 42, states the ultimate goal is to recruit ladies to US high schools.
“I have an organization called Total Basketball that works with high schools in the States,” Wills said. “The reason for that is the placing of kids in quality high schools is a problem. I talked to (national men’s team head coach) Daniel (Augustine) about the girls and the national men’s team. It seemed like a perfect marriage.”
Indeed Wills’ outfit has been around the last few years. Total Basketball is best known for staging competitions in the US for Washington-based high school teams. Wills also runs an annual summer basketball event in the area called Nations Capital Summer Pro-Am designed for minor league clubs and international travel teams to showcase their players to various scouts.
For Wills the visit to Cayman is a first. He worked with the likes of La-Torae Nixon, Amber Watson, Andrea Jackson and Chloe Powery doing numerous drills at the Arts and Recreation Centre. Wills states he is impressed with the local girls talent.
“This was my first time here and I stayed for a week. It’s a beautiful place and the people are tremendously friendly and pleasant. It’s the type of place, if you can afford it, you would move long-term. Personally I love the interest of the parents and players in basketball. I feel like I’ve been able to get a feel for what the people are interested in sports-wise.
“I did several different drills with the girls. A lot of it was fundamentals such as passing, rebounding and shooting though I introduced concepts (such as running an offence) and tested their athleticism. Basketball is basketball and I wanted to assess who had the ability and thinks the game. Those are the type of kids who transfer to college and can adapt to any system. Mind you evaluating the individual is one part in the framework of a team.
“I’m impressed with the players’ enthusiasm for exploring the possibility of playing hoops in the US. I’m also impressed with their talent and I’m hoping to see more of the talent here. Next time I want to visit the schools and talk to the teachers because that will help me match up kids with the right schools. Also it would help the kids come well-prepared. It’s all about a holistic approach to recruiting.”
Wills’ presence in Cayman seemingly comes in good time. The national U16 basketball competition, titled the PricewaterhouseCoopers U16 Basketball league, just wrapped up over the weekend. The girls segment played its final at Camana Bay while the boys division, featuring Bodden Town’s Maynor Brooks, wrapped up last month at the University College of the Cayman Islands.
Interestingly Wills has worked with a number of schools in the Mid-Atlantic region such as Princeton Day Academy, Progressive Christian Academy and Cesar Chavez public charter school. With connections to Miami Central high school in Miami, Florida, Mount Zion Christian Academy in North Carolina and Maryland’s Riverdale Baptist high, Wills feels Cayman players like Shana Linwood-McLaughlin could excel in the US immediately.
“The youngsters here are pleasant and want to learn. You take them to the States and teach them what to do and they will get better. I’m trying to get the girls placed in US schools. From there I’d like them to get into a women’s camp for a week that offers basketball all day (where they would work on skills and play exhibition games).
“Ultimately for the kids to get opportunities for basketball, they have to get off-island and be seen abroad. I work with top high schools in the States like North Carolina Tech Prepatory Christian Academy (in North Carolina) and Hagersville secondary high school in Maryland. Those schools want to work with kids and give them a good athletic and academic experience. After that there have been kids who went on to National Collegiate Athletics Association division two schools and many eventually played pro ball in South America and Europe.”