Jamel Winton hopes to create a legacy in local hoops.
Winton, 15, serves as captain for the Under-15 national basketball team playing in the CentroBasket Championships in San Salvador, El Salvador. The competition runs from Thursday, 23 August, until next Friday, 31 August.
This is the first time any male Cayman side has competed in the championships and Winton is happy to be part of history.
“It’s a great honour to represent my country,” Winton said. “I want to make the Cayman people feel proud of us. I’m not worried about expectations. I’m telling myself ‘don’t panic, lead as a captain should lead.’
“The guys have put in the hours, they worked hard. They’re dedicated and mentally focused for this moment.”
Winton, who turns 16 next April, is a born and bred George Towner who is one of 12 boys on the squad. His team-mates are Daniel Britton, Michael Brooks, Michael Dawes, Juawon Ebanks, Joshua Ebanks-Brown, Franz Manderson Jr, Jahmoll Miller, Javon Seymour, Norman Solomon, vice-captain Arin Taylor and Alexander Thompson.
Most of those young men have experience playing in the local youth leagues, from the U14 ranks up to the U19 category. The star players are expected to be Ebanks and Taylor, both age 14, as they have excelled for their clubs (Wesleyan Christian Academy and Shockwaves, respectively) for numerous years.
Guiding Winton and company will be head coach Duran ‘Trini’ Whittaker, assistant coach Erwin ‘Bong’ Blancaflor and team manager Angela O’Garro. The boys, whose uniforms are being provided by Sports Port Ltd, have been training since the start of the year at the First Baptist Church.
Technical Director for Cayman Basketball Victor ‘Voot’ O’Garro states there are many happenings planned for the sport.
“I’d like to thank First Baptist for their support as they did not charge us a cent and were not looking for a stipend,” O’Garro said. “When we use Kings Sports Centre and the Arts and Recreation Centre in Camana Bay, we have to pay.
“Every other year, international basketball focuses on different age groups. One year will be the juniors and the next year the seniors as most countries cannot afford to send two teams in one year.
“The Caribbean Basketball Confederation, for example, plans to do a mini-tournament. There are courts being built here through the new schools and the one at Clifton Hunter is looking real good. When they look for a mini-tournament for the U12s, Cayman would like to host.”
For the record, CentroBasket is an International Basketball Federation (FIBA)-sponsored basketball tournament featuring Central American and Caribbean countries in the Central American and Caribbean Confederation. The top four teams earn berths to the FIBA America Championships, which leads up to the FIBA World Championships and the Olympics.
Expectations for the Cayman team are measured. The side only qualified for CentroBasket through their participation in the basketball confederation U15 Youth Championships. A mere three countries were able to send a team to that tournament and thus Cayman earned an automatic berth.
The young men will play in Group B against the Bahamas, Mexico and hosts El Salvador. There are eight competing countries in all, with Group A consisting of Barbados, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Puerto Rico. The team left Cayman on Monday and is expected to return on 3 September.