Some of Cayman basketball’s best prodigies are competing abroad this summer.
The Cayman Islands Basketball Association is sending two national teams to the Caribbean Basketball Confederation Under-15 Youth Championships. On the girls side, Natasha Nixon will serve as team manager and technical director for Cayman basketball Victor ‘Voot’ O’Garro will be head coach. Duran ‘Trinni’ Whittaker coaches the boys.
Angela O’Garro, Voot’s wife, serves as team manager for the boys and she states training sessions have gone well.
“The boys are very enthusiastic and willing to learn,” O’Garro said. “They’re there every practice and train with lots of enthusiasm and grit. There has also been a lot of parental support. The parents will often stay and watch the kids train.”
Some 16 boys, aged 11-15, are currently trying out for the team. They are: Duncan Anderson, Daniel Britton, Michael Brooks, Justin Collins, Michael Dawes, Juawon Ebanks, Joshua Ebanks-Brown, Shemar Lindsay, Franz Manderson Jr, Ezra McLaughlin, Jahmoll Miller, Javon Seymour, Norman Solomon, Arin Taylor, Alexander Thompson and Jamel Winton.
Among the more established players are Collins, McLaughlin and Taylor, who have already won titles at the U16 and U14 levels, with Ebanks and Thompson being proven talents.
The squad, which has to be cut down to 12 members, is slated to compete in El Salvador on 18-22 July. The girls’ situation is more vague as a date and venue are not confirmed. Initially, both sides were supposed to play in Puerto Rico.
O’Garro states so far, the young men have responded to Whittaker’s instruction.
“The team has 16 boys in training and the coach will have to drop four players. Trinni is doing a very good job. Trinni comes with passion and he will instil that in the boys. They love that and respect him.”
For the record, the Caribbean Confederation is affiliated to the International Basketball Federation. Technically, it is under the Central American and Caribbean Basketball Zone Commission, which is a sub-zone of the FIBA Americas zone. Cayman is one of 24 member countries, which include regional neighbours like Jamaica, Barbados and Cuba.
News of the youth championships comes as the annual PWC U16 Basketball League is nearing its playoff stages. Bodden Town is atop the standings on the boys side with an unbeaten record while the flawless Lynx are the best girls side. Most of the male and female players trying out for the national teams are taking part in that competition.
Voot O’Garro, who started the recruitment process for the U15 squads back in March, states the Caribbean tournament is necessary.
“This is the first time the Caribbean confederation is having a tournament at this age group. We can have players ready for that competition for years. We have a decent crop of players.
“The goal is to prepare. It’s a qualifier for a world championship. Every two years there is a tournament for qualifying teams and every four years a major tournament. The idea is teams go from the qualifiers to Centrobasket, where they face the top teams from Latin America, and so on before advancing to the top event.”