Esso vets rewarded for loyalty

Kevin Maxwell had a choice to leave or stay with the Esso Blazers.

He had the size to be a starting centre on any team, the skills as a double-double threat and the respect after putting in over five years on the hard court. He chose to stick it out and recently earned his first national basketball championship with the Blazers.

The team captain states his motivation was Esso head coach Shawn Pitterson.

“It feels great to win, it’s been a long time waiting,” Maxwell said. “Eight seasons, eight years I’ve been with Esso. Shawn believed in us and the time was now to get it done.

“We’re happy to win the title for ourselves and for Shawn. He’s been waiting 14 seasons for this. I know Shawn and I took our licks but it paid off in the long run.”

Maxwell was courted, especially over the last five years, by many squads in division one of the Cayman Islands Basketball Association national men’s league. He consistently turned down offers and, as the flag football star states, it was not an easy decision as the Blazers routinely fell short of a title in his tenure.

The last shot Maxwell, Pitterson and company had at a championship was in 2009. They were swept outdoors on the association court by Eastern Avenue in George Town by the DHL Wolves, who would go on to repeat in 2010 against the Dominos Warriors. Dominos got their revenge in 2011 by sweeping the Wolves indoors at Camana Bay’s Arts and Recreation Centre.

The Warriors would surrender their crown this year to the Blazers, in a two-game sweep this month at Camana Bay. Esso won game one 66-64 before closing it out in game two 95-71. Maxwell had a good series, averaging 10 points and seven rebounds. The real stars were Davion Cotterell, 20, who averaged 18 points and Samuel O’Garro, 24, who averaged 14.5 points and 10 rebounds.

Both young men are among a talented quartet of youngsters currently playing college basketball abroad. Interestingly, the other two players are siblings in Josh Cotterell and Shaad O’Garro. Dominos countered with Serbian star Borislav Djordjic averaging 26.5 points and 13.5 rebounds and local big man Rotando Thompson averaging 18 points.

Maxwell states this year’s breakthrough was due to a balanced roster.

“It was a hard fight, it wasn’t easy. It was a good game overall. I’m extremely happy to get the veteran guys back, especially vets like Perry Levy and Nicholas ‘Muscles’ Beverly.”

Aside from their Jamaican roots, Beverly and Maxwell share the bond of being two of the longest-tenured players. Beverly, like Levy, has been with the squad 10 years. Born Philip Nicholas Beverly, he is a role player known for coming off the bench and providing energy through hustle plays.

Beverly, 29, lives in Bodden Town and states he predicted a championship months ago.

“I’m a senior player after playing all 10 of my basketball seasons with Esso,” Beverly said. “I’ve been in Cayman from 2000. I left Cayman on rollover, went to Jamaica and came back after the rollover.

“I told them, at the start of the season, we’d win the championship with me here. Without my intensity, they wouldn’t be winning. It come in like we win already, it’s just we never got the trophy. We beat ourselves every time.”

Beverly is one of many unheralded role players for the Blazers, the others include Barrett Edri, David Taylor and Rashaad Powery-Saunds. All enjoyed the corporate support of Esso Cayman Limited, who have been team sponsors over the last 14 years.

For Maxwell, Esso’s involvement is to be commended.

“I would just like to say thanks to Esso for their long sponsorship, this is for them. They always believe in us, they’re there for us and they believe in the youth. I also thank the fans for their support.

“Finally, I thank the Caymanian Compass for the years of coverage for this league and all of basketball and sports in general. It encourages the guys because seeing their picture and name in the paper is a good feeling.”