Cory McGee is confident Cayman’s basketball future is bright.
February was an interesting month on the court internationally for the Cayman Islands. While the likes of Felicia Connor and Jorge “Steamy” Ebanks made waves competing in the United States and England, respectively, an Under-19 team had a losing tour of the Bahamas. McGee said time will heal all wounds.
“I personally believe there is a lot of talent here,” McGee said. “There is a strong desire to want to improve by the teams and aspiring players. Once Cayman players can get more game experience across the board, the talent levels will rise.”
McGee, 40, is a former European pro player based in England. The American, who grew up in Tampa, Florida, has made contributions to British basketball in recent years, setting up academies in places such as Surrey.
McGee was in Cayman this month to work with local children. Among his tasks was working with the Cayman Islands Basketball Association’s youth development programme at Kings Sports Centre.
Kings would see the John Gray High School’s boys U-19 team train for exhibition games in Nassau, Bahamas. John Gray would end up losing to the Charles Irvin Gibson Senior High School Rattlers, 74-13, private school St. Vincent Stingrays, 36-9 and Aquinas College, 45-34.
Arin Taylor served as team captain and said the trip, endorsed by the association as part of local basketball’s development, provided a learning experience.
“We are grateful for the experience and even though it did not work out like we hoped, we did our best to make Cayman and our school proud,” Taylor said. “There were almost 7-feet tall players who were dunking the ball and we are not at that level yet. However, we never gave up as a team. On behalf of the team, I want to say thanks to all the people who sponsored us and supported us in every way to help us make the trip.”
Taylor was one of nine players on the team. The others were Rueben Barnes, Joshua Ebanks-Brown, Daviel Foster, Douglas Henkis, Cameron Hydes, Dajon Sibblies, Alexander Thompson and Jamel Winton. National men’s coach Daniel Augustine helped train the squad with John Gray teacher Errol Grey serving as head coach.
Winton, along with Ebanks-Brown, was Cayman’s top performer during each of the three games. The George Town native also focused on the future rather than the Nassau losses.
“We worked hard, we tried to remember everything we were taught,” Winton said. “The experience was great and we need more exposure if we are going to develop at the level the Bahamas players are. It was a great trip overall. Thanks to the teachers and chaperones for everything they did for us.”
The performance of the boys was in stark contrast to other positives seen in 2013. Felicia Connor, 17, is the latest local player to play in California. Alongside Amber Watson, 18, Connor propelled the Capistrano Valley Christian School Eagles in southern Orange County to a winning record this season. She had a team-high 17 points in a recent 53-23 Eagles win over Cornelia Connelly School.
Ebanks, 26, is the leading scorer in division one of the English Basketball League, averaging 22.79 points per game for the Tees Valley Mohawks. The 6-feet, 1-inch guard has the Mohawks 11-7, good enough for fourth place.
For John Gray manager Paulette Conolly-Bailey and coach Grey, McGee is one of many people who still feel Cayman basketball can excel on the international stage.
“Of notable interest are the compliments the Cayman team got from people they interacted with when they were out and about in Nassau,” Conolly-Bailey said. “The team was applauded for their discipline, manners and politeness. We were also interviewed live by a local radio station while having breakfast downtown one morning and got the opportunity to promote Cayman.”
“This group of boys were chosen because they proved that it’s not just all about playing basketball,” Grey said. “They have a good overall attitude towards their peers, coaches and teachers.
“We thank Bahamas coach Kevin Johnson and his team for the hospitality shown to us and appreciate all their efforts in organising the school exchange programme and hope one day we can host them here at home in Cayman.”