One of the lingering issues in local basketball is the lack of a central public venue.
While Camana Bay’s Arts and Recreation Center and the University College of the Cayman Islands multipurpose hall have hosted games in recent years, both charge the Cayman Islands Basketball Association a rental fee that ultimately gets passed on to teams and spectators. The association does have an outdoor court off Eastern Avenue, but the court surface and impact of weather conditions make for a less-than-ideal setting.
Minister for Sports Osbourne Bodden recently said local hoops is primed to have a world-class facility.
“We are going to be completing the auditorium of the John Gray High School campus, which will offer a new home for basketball and allow us to host international matches and camps,” Bodden said. “All in all, basketball is moving in a good direction under the leadership of association president Joel Jefferson and his executive team and coaches and we, as a government, will continue to support them wherever we can.”
John Gray is one of two new high schools, with their completion projected to cost more than $200 million. Clifton Hunter opened in September 2012, while the new John Gray High School remains unfinished.
Basketball is one of Cayman’s six focus sports, with the others being track and field, cricket, netball, swimming and football, the national sport. Most of those disciplines have a dedicated venue to utilise for events. Basketball had a dedicated venue years ago in the form of the Lions Center, but the facility was ravaged with the passing of Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
It should be noted that upgrades to the current facility structure are overdue for netball, as elite nations play primarily indoors, and swimming, with the international standard for competition pools being 50 meters.
Bodden maintains that government support will not dwindle as basketball’s importance is clear.
“Basketball offers kids the opportunity to play a great team sport and benefit from the camaraderie. It also offers kids an outlet – they may excel and get chosen for a scholarship overseas,” he said.
The youth are now taking center stage in the Domino’s Pizza Under-19 Basketball League. The initial standouts include the Esso Blazers, with players like Javon Seymour, the Wesleyan Christian Academy Griffins which feature Alexander Thompson, and the Comets, with Alicia Turner.
Matches continue on Saturday at Camana Bay. Wesleyan Soldiers face Wolves at 3:30 p.m., Comets challenge Lynx at 4:45 p.m., Monarchs contend with Sparks at 6 p.m. and Esso battle John Gray at 7:15 p.m.