Youth basketball will stretch to new horizons in the coming months.
The sport’s top figures say the Cayman Islands will have a greater presence in regional tournaments and look to send more kids abroad to play basketball. Cayman Islands Basketball Association President Joel Jefferson states 2013 will be a huge year.
“The sport is growing and we’re doing work in the youth programmes,” Jefferson said. “That’s obvious as we can find this many players to perform in this year’s CentroBasket tournament.
“This is key, basketball is not just something you play a couple hours a day. We want to grow the sport and schools are a large part of that. I feel 2013 will be a big year with bigger things happening.”
Jefferson, who has been president for less than a year, saw Cayman send its national Under-15 teams to the CentroBasket Championships this month. The girls squad competed in Mexico City, Mexico with the likes of Rochel Gardener and Alessandra Hawkins propelling Cayman to a historic fifth place finish and fresh kudos as the top youth side in the Caribbean.
The boys, behind stars Arin Taylor and Juawon Ebanks, are playing in San Salvador, El Salvador until Friday, 31 August, before returning home on 3 September. Accompanying the boys and girls teams was head local referee Gregory Hamilton.
Technical director for Cayman Basketball Victor ‘Voot’ O’Garro states playing abroad is a major goal going forward.
“You have to talk about education to adjust better to playing at the college level and beyond,” O’Garro said. “What we’re planning now is to send kids off to play high school basketball. It is already working well and we will continue to send more kids to high schools abroad.
“At the same time, they will have to keep their grades up. Sports and academics go hand in hand.”
O’Garro served as head coach for the girls side, which lost to defending champions Puerto Rico and Guatemala before crushing regional foes Barbados and the Bahamas. Leading the charge against Guatemala and Barbados were captain Hannah Parchment, who had game-highs of 21 points and 20 points in each contest, vice captain La-Torae Nixon (who scored 19 points and then 18 points) and Chloe Powery (14 points against Barbados).
The side qualified for CentroBasket through their participation in the Caribbean Basketball Confederation U15 Youth Championships. Nixon and Powery had arguably the most experience at international competitions after playing for the national U17 girls team, under head coach Redver Ebanks and assistant coach Billy Fenton, at the 2011 CentroBasket tournament in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. Nixon, 14, was ninth overall in scoring after averaging 17.7 points per game.
O’Garro states the success of the girls is paving the way for an expanded youth academy.
“We are already headed in the way of Argentina with full-time academies. We have the primary/U12, U14, U16 and U19 leagues along with the senior leagues. It’s one of our chief initiatives.
“From here, the Cayman basketball academy resumes on 22 September. The academy currently attracts over 50 kids to the First Baptist Church. After that, the U19 league starts back in October.”