The DHL Wolves of the Cayman Islands have hit a recent bumpy road in their otherwise successful basketball history.
After their Under-19 club finished their second championship campaign in as many seasons, their men’s team didn’t get as deep into the playoffs as they had hoped: eliminated in the semi-finals round after losing a three-game series to the Esso Blazers.
Now as this off-season starts, their attention seems to be focused elsewhere. Head Coach Duran ‘Trinni’ Whittaker commented on the semi-final loss, with much less disappointment in his voice as you might expect from a coach who is so used to winning, “We’re just going to take a break,” he said, “We’re going to ease down, rest for next season, we’re not all 24 and full of energy, we need our rest. It was hard to win this year with games being scheduled on Sundays, members of our team had other commitments such as football and family, so we never really had a full squad.”
Wolves featured a veteran cast with the likes of Dwight O’Garro, Sandi Jiminez and Gary ‘Butcher’ Mclaughlin. Esso, with unsung talents like Nicholas Beverly, are in their second final over the last four years.
Trinni spoke about the fact that the organization’s focus has now gone elsewhere. “Our focus is now on the kids teams, the U16s currently, and the U19s after that,” he continued, “Whatever happens with our men’s team next year, happens, but our focus is on developing our talent for success in the future.”
The U16 Wolves team isn’t doing as well as previous seasons, winless in five games but improving along the way. “It’s a different mind-set when coaching kids, you’ve got to teach the fundamentals instead of strategies and game-planning,” he explained, “but these kids are willing learners and willing players.”
The U16 team has talent, raw talent, but talent nonetheless. Players such as Norman Solomon (averaging 14.5 points per game and 4.5 rebounds) and Jamel Winton (10.2 ppg and 9.8 rpg) are emerging as the young leaders of the team, but there is still much work to do. Despite the season being at its mid-way point, Coach Trinni is still adding pieces to the puzzle.
He has no expectations for this season except individual and team improvement, so the roster hasn’t been set for this year. “We’re still adding players, we’re looking for as much talent as we can find,” Duran said, “These guys have a lot to learn, but they’re progressing really well and moving forward.”
Coach Trinni has coached the U19 squad for the last four consecutive years, but he hopes to bring some youth into the coaching pool. “Hopefully for the upcoming U19 season I can have one of my old U19 players coach the team.”
He aims to have one of last year’s members, now too old, take over the team while he takes a back-seat and becomes an assistant. “I have an idea of who I want, but nothing is set in stone yet”.
The Wolves franchise has enjoyed its many successes over the last five seasons, with championships from both its mens and U19 teams along with deep playoff runs. Now it’s a time for scouting and development, something that they seem to do well as they have been able to build championship teams in the past.