Cayman Islands basketball star Jorge ‘Steamy’ Ebanks is now playing in Europe.
Ebanks, 26, signed a one-year contract with the Tees Valley Mohawks in division one of the English Basketball League. Based in Middlesborough, England, the squad is in the midst of retooling its roster this summer.
The George Town native, who officially joined the team on Tuesday, states the move came about through a team-mate.
“It’s a one-year contract and it isn’t much because it’s my first time there,” Ebanks said. “But I plan to work my way up to the top leagues where they pay a lot more money.
“My team-mate from the Buffalo Stampede, Mike Dodd, went over to England last season and got picked by the Mohawks and they play in the second top league in England. At the end of last season, Mike told the coach about me and showed him my Youtube highlight tapes. The owner contacted me soon after and said he was really interested in me coming next season, which starts in September, to play for the team as they are rebuilding since they didn’t finish good last season.
“So all summer I’ve been working on getting my British passport because the owner said it would make it a lot easier to get on teams with a British passport in the UK.”
Ebanks, who turns 27 next March, was previously based in New York. He played for semi-pro team the Buffalo Stampede, in the Atlantic Coast Professional Basketball League, the last two years. The team played in the New York metropolitan area, which was convenient as Ebanks was finishing up his studies at Daemen College in Amherst, near the city of Buffalo.
Interestingly, the son of Mary Ebanks has been away at school in America since 2006. He first went to a prep school in Maine, transferred to Finger Lakes Community College in upstate New York and then did two years at Daemen.
The 6ft 1in guard states he will be fully focused on his new English venture after earning his college degree.
“I’m very excited and blessed to get an opportunity to go over there and play basketball for a living. The best feeling in the world is doing something that you love to do and getting a salary from it and for me that is basketball.
“I’m truly grateful and blessed and I thank the Lord everyday for these blessings. I also just graduated in May from Daemen with my Bachelors degree in Business Administration so it’s been a good summer so far. I’m just ready to get there and get this season started.”
For the record, Ebanks was raised in New York City and only lived in Cayman for about four to five years. He is one of six children as his brothers are Jason, Carlos and Michael Ebanks and his sisters are Lila and Suewade Ebanks. In Cayman, he has a long basketball history, having played from his high school days at John Gray high and joining the national team at age 17. He played alongside the likes of Collin Anglin and Antonio Thompson and was coached by notables like Redver Ebanks and Technical Director for Cayman Basketball Victor “Voot” O’Garro.
Ebanks starred for perennial powerhouses George Town Sports Club in the Cayman Islands Basketball Association national men’s league. He was among the leaders in scoring and steals and was a big part of consecutive championship runs by George Town.
Mohawks head coach Steve Butler, whose English squad begin a preseason tournament this Saturday, 1 September, states the club is pleased to sign Ebanks.
“Having someone of Jorge’s calibre coming to Tees Valley Mohawks is showing the direction we are moving in,” Butler said. “He is a fantastic player and a leader. He can play solid defence as well as score freely on the offensive end of the court.
“Jorge is a winner, everywhere he goes he makes his team win. I’m really looking forward to working with him this season, as well as the others, to see them gel as a team and compete to make the Mohawks a team that is challenging at the top.”
Ebanks’ latest title came last June, in Cayman’s national men’s league, as a member of the Dominos Warriors. He would also earn the 2011 Finals Most Valuable Player award.
He then served as captain for the national team, which competed at the 2011 Island Games on the Isle of Wight in the UK and the 2011 Caribbean Basketball Confederation Senior Mens Championships in Nassau, Bahamas. Cayman had lackluster showings at both tournaments, finishing seventh at the Island Games and ninth at the CBC Championships.
Ebanks states all of that history makes his latest move to England even sweeter.
“I worked hard and I’ve been through a lot of ups and down over the years but I never gave up and just kept fighting for my dream. Now I feel like my dreams are all starting to come together.”