Cory McGee is looking to make a legacy in the Cayman Islands. His vision is for local basketball players to consistently compare to their overseas counterparts.
McGee, 39, is in Cayman until this weekend working with local hoopsters. In particular he worked with members of the national men’s team, fresh off lackluster performances at a pair of international competitions: the Island Games in the Isle of Wight and the Caribbean Basketball Confederation Senior Men’s championships in Nassau, Bahamas.
The Tampa, Florida native states he sees potential here.
“You can find basketball players and talent anywhere,” McGee said. “With the Cayman guys the athleticism is straight there, the physique is there and the potential skills are there. Now it’s about harvesting that. Above all it’s about making these guys contributors to society, which is important wherever they play. When they struggle they have to know what to do and how to handle that.
“No one knows about Cayman basketball and that’s what makes it fun for me. I can leave a legacy, just like when I worked with Great Britain basketball teams. This year the teams I worked with won four regional championships. In the UK now I’ve set up basketball programmes in 22 schools.”
One of McGee’s latest success stories is in Surrey, England. In the borough of Elmbridge, he set up the Surrey Spitfires Basketball Academy. As of this February, the academy had reached 100 participants within four months.
McGee is a former pro basketball player in Europe. He started out in 1996 playing for the Derby Storm in England and had four other stints in the UK in Chester, Worthing, Taunton and Manchester. He would also have stints in Israel, Holland, Spain, Ireland and Finland. His last stop would be with ASVP Porto Vecchio based in Corsica, France six years ago in 2005.
McGee states that experience was eye-opening.
“I was Tampa-raised and a McDonald’s All-American in high school before attending Savannah State University in Georgia. After that I went to Europe, put in a few years in the UK and spent about 10 years playing basketball. I progressed all over the UK and what I found important is how to teach youngsters interview skills and life skills in general.
“Going pro you find yourself having achieved your dream but struggling to maintain that dream. On and off the court you need to have balance. You have to build your character and it’s difficult. People say they know what they would do with a million dollars. But I can tell you that you really don’t know what to do with a million dollars. You got to make it last. Mind you it’s good to represent a team because you feel proud and it’s good to be honoured and get recognition. But it’s hard work because at any minute you can be fired for a better team player. Basketball is a war; there’s always someone trying to be better than you.”
Interestingly McGee has been to Cayman twice this summer. His visits came about through Katina Anglin-Powery, a supporter of local basketball, who in turn put him in contact with national men’s basketball coach Daniel Augustine. McGee, who met up with the men’s team on their return from the Bahamas, states he was pleased to work with Augustine and company.
“This is the second time coming here as I came last month. I had never been to Cayman prior to this year and it’s all good. Katina heard about me and told me to come to Cayman. Initially I was trying to understand the country from the grass-roots. From the first visit I learned about the people and understood where they were coming from.
“One of the major reasons for coming here is Cayman is like the UK; it’s a dead-zone. No one is looking for basketball here. Those recent tournaments were big exposure for Cayman because you all are not exposed much.”
One of the young men McGee worked with was Jorge Ebanks. The George Town native is playing semi-pro basketball in New York but was here for the summer playing on the national team for both tournaments. Ebanks is looking to become a top-level professional and McGee feels that step would be a big boost to local basketball.
“It’s a process. To get that one guy out and in the pros would make the other guys hungry. On that day everyone will think they can play to a high level. It would bring hoops here to the forefront and inspire people to work on their individual characteristics.
“While I was here the guys took me in arms. I hope they take my template and form their own system from that. My style is to out-will you and out-hustle you. However no one has the perfect template.
“I’m happy to support the system here. I want to make sure my name sticks and my legacy lives on. At the very least the association will see some change with the national team. They can be sure that they get some hunger and fight out of the guys. Once they work hard and try hard they’ll see that they’re changing the world one dribble at a time.”