Kids keen to make their mark

For the first time in Cayman Islands history, both a girls and a boys Under-16 basketball team will be travelling off island to compete in the Under 16 Central Basket Tournament. Each time will be representing Cayman in a different country however: U-16 boys will be going to El Salvador from 21-30 August, and the girls leave for Mexico from 13-20 August. This will be Cayman’s first ever experience at a youth tournament of this quality.

Cayman Islands youth basketball has been slowly improving over the past few years. Caymanian ballers are now playing for college teams in the United States and it has led to a national team travelling to a prestigious tournament in a couple of weeks.

The U-16 squads are guided by three coaches. Head coach is Duran ‘Trini’ Whittaker, coach Victor ‘Voot’ O’Garro and coach Erwin ‘Bong’ Blancaflor. Whittaker states he is looking forward to the experience, “It’s my first time being the head coach of a national team like this, but I’m really enjoying it,” Trini said. “It’s really exciting. I’m looking forward to going over there and seeing where we’re at skill-level wise.”

Whittaker has been a long time figure in local basketball, coaching Division One men’s teams, U-19 boy’s teams, and U-16 boy’s teams (all of the Wolves franchise). He has brought championship basketball to Wolves teams ever since he began coaching.

In fact, he is fresh off a second title in back-to-back seasons with his U-19 Wolves team. Now, on a national level, Trini has brought the same championship mentality, as well as a heightened defensive intensity, to the U-16 teams.

“Our teams are pretty good,” Trini said. “We’re always improving individually and our chemistry is pretty good. We still have a long way to go but we’re definitely on the right track.”

The U-16 national teams are full of talent but, as Trini stated, there really are no expectations surrounding them. “This is our first time playing there. It’s my first time coaching at this level, it’s the first time we’re going there. It’s a lot of firsts, all of us are rookies at this point.

“We’re still identifying our team identities and learning concepts. So our expectations right now are just to compete as hard as possible, learn as much as we possibly can and improve each and every minute we’re out on the floor.

“Players and coaches don’t know what kind of talent to expect at the games, but each person involved in our U-16 national teams can’t wait to find out. The experience is purely aimed at teaching the kids, both on-the-floor and off-the-floor qualities.

“It’s not about winning and losing this time around, it’s about bettering as a team, bettering as a player and bettering each other as people. The U-16 Cayman national teams are about to make history, let’s hope they can make some noise at the tournament while 
they’re there.”

“Our expectations right now are just to compete as hard as possible, learn as much as we possibly can and improve each and every minute we’re out on the floor.”