As Cayman athletes chase glory in Bermuda, a lingering issue is the absence of local basketball players.
The Cayman Islands did not send a national men’s hoops team to the 2013 NatWest Island Games in Bermuda. The competition began last Saturday and wraps up in Hamilton on Friday, 19 July.
For national team regulars like Rotando Thompson, 29, the situation is a disturbing debacle.
“It’s bad management and planning towards the Games,” Thompson said. “We had two years of preparation and numerous games. Honestly, I don’t see where any action was taken. It comes down to getting funds. Though we discussed a national team, it all boiled down to no money being pumped into the sport.
“Personally, I’m disappointed because Bermuda is right next door to us, it’s closer than Europe. It’s just sad for the players.”
Hoopsters last stormed the Island Games for Cayman in 2011, in the Isle of Wight. Thompson was part of a veteran team that featured Jorge ‘Steamy’ Ebanks, Jerome Graham-Record, Chad Leslie, Jerome Narcisse, Dwight O’Garro, Samuel O’Garro, Shaad O’Garro, Lloyd Samuels, Deandre Simpson, David Terry and Cory Thompson. All were led by head coach Daniel Augustine.
A number of players went on to be based overseas. Ebanks, Narcisse and Thompson now play semi-pro basketball in England with Graham-Record, Samuel and Shaad O’Garro and Samuels attending school in the US.
It was a lacklustre showing for Cayman, which placed seventh with three victories and two losses. For Thompson, a 6 foot, 8 inch post player, Bermuda was supposed to be a chance to return to medal-winning standards.
“We still love the sport, when it boils down to it. We got to keep tradition going and keep the youth looking forward to something coming up. From eight years old until the mid-20s, there’s a lot of potential here. But, from what I see, there’s no backing or momentum for basketball in Cayman.”
For Bermuda, Cayman is sending some 84 athletes over 11 events. The featured sports are athletics, cycling, golf, gymnastics, sailboarding, sailing, shooting, squash, swimming, triathlon and volleyball (both beach and indoors). Among the star talent on display is Olympic swimming brothers Brett and Shaune Fraser, golfing talent Samantha Widmer and javelin prodigy Alex Pascal.
Carl Brown serves as assistant general manager for the Cayman contingent and said prior to the Games that it was a disappointment not to see basketball in the field.
“Unfortunately, basketball will not be there this time, along with table tennis,” Brown said. “But we will work with what we have.”
In the early going, the medal count has looked good. By Tuesday, Cayman had won eight gold, six silver and four bronze as swimmer Lara Butler (gold, 400 metre individual medley; bronze, 200m butterfly; gold, 100m backstroke; bronze, 200m IM) led the charge.
Aside from national pride, Thompson sought positives on the court to dispel another failed championship bid. His Dominos Warriors would be swept in the local finals, for a second straight year, by Kevin Maxwell’s Esso Blazers.
Esso, behind the likes of Josh Cotterell, dominated division one of the Cayman Islands Basketball Association 2013 National Men’s League to claim the regular season and overall crown for a second consecutive season.
Dominos were second fiddle throughout in spite of talents like Kenval Bryan and Borislav Djordjic.
Thompson, who turns 30 in November, said his team was simply outplayed.
“We played well, we had players come back from being overseas in Narcisse and Samuels. The Blazers have a good team and head coach in Shawn Pitterson and a good sponsor in Esso.
“It was a case where whoever put in the most work would win it and it showed. As for next season, we’ll see what happens.
“All we can do is pray for the best and hope Cayman basketball gets the support it needs. Look at the local league this year with only four teams (the other two clubs were Ariel Whittaker’s Silver Bullets and Eckerd McField’s George Town Sports Club).
“It’s sad and I’m not sure what happens from here.”