Jamel Winton is seeking redemption after a regrettable summer on the court.
His first stint as captain for a national basketball team resulted in the Cayman Islands’ Under-15 squad being thrashed in the CentroBasket Championships. Winton, 15, has another shot at regional success in the Bahamas and the George Town native is not dwelling on his prior effort in El Salvador.
“After the tournament we had last year, a lot of the guys have tried to work more on our development,” Winton said. “We’re looking forward to this tournament, we’re not thinking about last year.
“Cayman has produced some good talent and we can learn a lot each game and do good with the talent on the team,” he added.
Winton, who turns 16 in April, is one of eight boys starring for John Gray High School’s Under-19 boys team in Nassau this week. The others are Reuben Barnes, Joshua Ebanks-Brown, Daviel Foster, Douglas Henkis, Cameron Hydes, Arin Taylor and Alexander Thompson.
The Cayman Islands Basketball Association is endorsing the trip as part of local basketball’s development. The team recently had a chance to train at Kings Sports Centre alongside members of the association’s youth development programme/Kings after-school programme, which was graced with former European pro player Cory McGee.
The young men are coached by Errol Grey and national men’s coach Daniel Augustine, with uniform providers Sports Port Ltd. among their corporate sponsors. John Gray faces three Bahamian institutions in Charles Irvin Gibson Senior High School, Donald W. Davis Junior High School and Aquinas College. Matches are slated to wrap up by Saturday, 16 February.
Some of the boys, namely Ebanks-Brown, Taylor and Thompson, were with Winton at the CentroBasket event when Cayman went 0-5 and finished last out of eight countries. The first three losses were embarrassing with thrashings by Mexico (127-27), El Salvador (108-18) and the Bahamas (105-26) in group play. Cayman then lost to Costa Rica, 73-21, and Barbados, 64-49.
Winton insists the John Gray squad can produce different results.
“It’s a good opportunity for guys who play ball everyday. The teams we got to play are a good challenge, but we have a chance of doing good,” he said.
While Winton’s troops struggled, the girls’ U-15 squad excelled at the CentroBasket tournament in Mexico City. The likes of team captain Hannah Parchment, vice captain La-Torae Nixon and Chloe Powery propelled Cayman to a fifth place finish and fresh kudos as the top youth side in the Caribbean.
For Augustine, the Nassau challenge is a chance for local boys to catch up to their peers.
“I expect them to play as a team, that’s it,” Augustine said. “If they don’t do that, then they’ll lose morale, focus and be totally lost out there. We understand context as the Cayman Islands. We know winning will change the history of basketball in Cayman.
“The most important thing for them is to be proud before and after they leave Cayman because they represent Cayman. With our history, Cayman is known for the correct way of playing on and off the court with good manners, meaning what we want to do and good conduct. Once everyone is kept focused on the same goal, they can win the three games.”
Coordinating the team will fall largely on Grey, with the Bahamas trip offering a chance to better his coaching resume. On one hand, he has consistently groomed young talent like Kaseem Penn and Dino Hydes over the years. However, his John Gray teams have struggled to be competitive in the local U-19 league in past years, often finishing near the bottom of the pack.
Grey is not focused on his coaching history as his attention is on the likes of Winton and Taylor.
“I hope they bring their invaluable experience to the forefront to help us,” Grey said. “Jamel is into the game, Arin and Daviel are good prospects. What we have is a good group of young men.
“I expect them to give a good account of themselves. The main aim is to expose them to other types of basketball out there. This is one of the best groups I’ve discovered in Cayman. From what I’ve seen, they can go a long way.”