Basketball in Cayman has historically been dominated by dynasties. The Esso Blazers are eager to join those ranks.
After claiming the Cayman Islands Basketball Association 2012 national men’s league division one crown, talk around the team has centred on a repeat. Esso head coach Shawn Pitterson states those hopes are well warranted.
“We have the players in place now for a dynasty,” Pitterson said. “The only problem is guys returning in time from school. Other than that, we have everything in place.
“We made big steps with the players dedicating to practice, watching film and so forth. We got to continue to work harder.”
The born-and-bred Bodden Towner saw Esso claim their first national championship in the club’s 14-year existence this month. The Pease Bay native coached the Blazers to a two-game sweep of the 2011 champs Dominos Warriors. Game one was a 66-64 thriller with game two ending in a 95-71 blowout at Camana Bay’s Arts and Recreation Centre.
Leading the Blazers were Davion Cotterell, 20, who averaged 18 points and Samuel O’Garro, 24, who averaged 14.5 points and 10 rebounds. Dominos countered with Serbian star Borislav Djordjic averaging 26.5 points and 13.5 rebounds and local big man Rotando Thompson averaging 18 points.
One of the keys for Esso was team captain Kevin Maxwell. The Jamaican had a good series, averaging 10 points and seven rebounds. Maxwell states future titles will test his side’s collective resolve.
“How do I feel about a repeat? I feel pretty good,” Maxwell said. “We have young guys coming up and we want to bring them up. We can’t do this forever and basketball is positive, taking them off the streets.
“We have a positive mind. A couple guys are off to college next year but we hope for the same team. It’ll be intense but we can do what we got to do. We can’t slack up, we got to defend it and go harder because everyone will be gunning for us.”
After playing eight seasons with Esso, Maxwell hopes the Blazers take their place among clubs like George Town Sports Club and the DHL Wolves. George Town have won the most titles in Cayman basketball history, rattling off four straight with the last coming in 2008. The Wolves are the most recent side to win at least two consecutive trophies, emerging on top in 2009 and 2010.
Another veteran player with hopes of hoisting more trophies is Nicholas ‘Muscles’ Beverly. Born Philip Nicholas Beverly, the Jamaican role player of 10 years states a Esso repeat rests in team chemistry.
“The only persons that can beat us is ourselves,” Beverly said. “I think we can try it again. Everyone just has to stay together as a team and as a family. That’s the most important thing.”
Ultimately, a second straight title will depend on the availability and performance of the youngsters currently playing college basketball abroad. Cotterell and O’Garro are joined by their siblings Josh Cotterell and Shaad O’Garro. For Shaad, their presence at school abroad is a nonissue.
“A repeat is very possible,” Shaad said. “We’ll be away in school again but we should all be practicing more with Island Games coming up. I’m looking at the repeat as just another challenge, with more guys coming down from school to play.”