Hamilton elevates our officiating

While Cayman’s youth basketball teams chase history, referees are busy making big strides of their own.

The Cayman Islands sent a national boys and girls Under-15 side to El Salvador and Mexico respectively for the CentroBasket Championships. Joining the sides was head local referee Gregory Hamilton.

Hamilton, 33, states he intends to pass on what he learns from officiating the CentroBasket games.

“I’ve officiated senior tournaments at this level and it’s always good,” Hamilton said. “They play a little more than we do. Whenever you do a tournament at the CentroBasket level or above, you learn new stuff. I will take that back to the refs here.

“As officials, we’re more than referees. We’re teachers, we teach the game to kids so they can continue to get better. We have a good bunch of refs here, three of them are International Basketball Federation (FIBA) refs. There is a training course for refs and we want to get as much people as possible to ref.”

Hamilton, who turns 34 in December, was with the girls team that placed fifth in Mexico City last week. He travelled to San Salvador on Monday along with the boys squad. All are expected to be in the Central American country until Friday, 31 August, before returning home on 3 September.

Technical Director for Cayman Basketball Victor ‘Voot’ O’Garro states Hamilton’s presence is a boon for local hoops.

“We needed a referee to send to the games, as per FIBA rules, to avoid paying a $1,000 fee to FIBA for them to provide a ref,” O’Garro said. “Greg was selected to officiate the finals between Puerto Rico and Mexico so basketball is growing in all areas.

“Greg is our head ref in Cayman with Dwight and Bobeth O’Garro being the other FIBA refs. In Puerto Rico, at the FIBA Tournament of the Americas, Bobeth was selected to officiate the game between the US and Brazil in the final. That tournament is a lead up to the World Games. Cayman is doing well in the technical side of the sport.”

In El Salvador, the Cayman team consists of 12 young men in Daniel Britton, Michael Brooks, Michael Dawes, Juawon Ebanks, Joshua Ebanks-Brown, Franz Manderson Jr, Jahmoll Miller, Javon Seymour, Norman Solomon, vice-captain Arin Taylor, Alexander Thompson and captain Jamel Winton. The stars are expected to be Ebanks and Taylor, both age 14, as they have excelled for numerous years.

Guiding the boys will be head coach Duran ‘Trini’ Whittaker, assistant coach Erwin ‘Bong’ Blancaflor and team manager Angela O’Garro. The young men, whose uniforms are being provided by Sports Port Ltd, have been training since the start of the year at the First Baptist Church.

Expectations for the Cayman team are measured. The side only qualified for CentroBasket through their participation in the Caribbean 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.

For the record, CentroBasket is 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.

The boys 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 young men will be looking to emulate the form of the ladies. The girls placed fifth overall in Mexico, beating the Bahamas and Barbados to emerge as the best Caribbean team. Hamilton states win or lose, both teams benefit from participating.

“I think it’s a good experience for the kids to play at this level. It will help them in their development for the future. Exposure, it’s always good as they can step up from playing locally. It can better prepare them for future competitions.”