John Gray will court US stars

John Gray High School will have a key role in local basketball’s future.

Once completed, the institution is slated to be the home for international tournaments and overseas stars. According to technical director for Cayman basketball Victor ‘Voot’ O’Garro, one of the first assignments for the new locale will be staging an invitational tournament for top American college basketball players.

“It’s being worked on at present, the only thing we’re waiting on now is to see the court be completed,” O’Garro said. “There are some stipulations or requirements we have to meet. For example, some colleges will not play on anything but wood, so we have to have that wood flooring for that to become a reality.

“It’s a lot of preparation but it’s worth it because Bahamas is making a habit of their tournament and Cayman, being one of the greatest destinations on Earth, definitely will attract a lot of teams coming here.”

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. Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden recently said the school’s auditorium will meet international standards and that government will continue to support local basketball. There is no official timeframe for John Gray’s completion.

Director of Sports Collin Anglin had said earlier this year that discussions were ongoing between government, the Cayman Islands Basketball Association and the National Collegiate Athletic Association on the possibility of staging a basketball tournament in Grand Cayman.

The proposed timing for the tournament would be late 2015, to coincide with the NCAA preseason for division one schools. Institutions like the University of Miami and the University of Florida play their seasons from November until March, climaxing with postseason competitions like the NCAA tournament.

Anglin said the school auditorium would seat 2,500 people and host international matches for netball and volleyball. He said the proposed college basketball tournament was aiming to be like the Maui Invitational in Hawaii and the Battle for Atlantis in the Bahamas.

Over the last two years, Nassau has staged their competition in late November just before Thanksgiving, with action centered around Atlantis Resorts on Paradise Island. Matches are played in the Imperial Arena, a grand ballroom which is turned into a basketball venue. The tournament is known for being the richest division one preseason event as schools are awarded $2 million in exchange for their participation.

Last year, contests were televised on AXS TV and NBC Sports Network with the likes of ESPN, CBS and Fox Sports providing added media coverage. In 2012, Mason Plumlee guided the Duke Blue Devils to the title, ahead of a field including the Louisville Cardinals and the Memphis Tigers.

For 2013, the competing teams include the Kansas Jayhawks, University of Southern California Trojans and Villanova Wildcats. Games will take place Nov. 28-30. ESPN announced last month that it reached a new multiyear agreement for media rights to the tournament starting in 2014 and ending in 2016.