Over the last three months, Jonathan Powery and Denton Cole stormed the court with tactical genius.
Their brilliance reaped championships in the Dominos Pizza Under-19 Basketball League before Christmas. Powery would coach the Wesleyan Soldiers to an unbeaten season and a boys division title while Cole directed the Lynx to the girls division trophy. For Powery, 24, it is his latest youth triumph in the sport and arguably his most impressive performance, considering he also molded the Wesleyan Griffins, who advanced to the finals. The West Bay native said this year’s success came through players believing in his ethos.
“This is my second year coaching Wesleyan Christian Academy,” Powery said. “I watched them for a number of years. I used to go to school there and it dawned on me to coach the team. I approached Wesleyan about it, they agreed and we went from there. I’m a scouter, some coaches might write off a player but I’ll see his potential. I knew they had potential after looking into the teams and I just had to unlock that potential. Once they bought into my coaching philosophy, they were willing to do anything to win.
“Wesleyan never even made it to the playoffs before I got there. Last year, they got to the finals and we made the next step this year. I see a brighter future for Wesleyan in basketball. They will keep progressing.”
To Powery’s point, the talent on both rosters was impressive. The Soldiers boasted a double-double machine in Albis Amaya, who posted 16 points and 17 rebounds in the finals. To no surprise, he was regular season and Finals Most Valuable Player. The championship match showcased the Soldiers’ wealth of perimeter prowess as Arin Taylor scored 16 points, three 3-pointers and five assists, Juawon Ebanks contributed 14 points and five steals and Naithique Jackson added 13 points and five rebounds.
The Griffins lacked no shortage of performers either. Alex Thompson capped off a campaign in which he was named Most Improved Player by netting 25 points and 12 rebounds in the finals. Kameron Reynolds had one of his best games of the season in scoring 16 points. Jimmy Clarke, Mavrick Welds and Devonte Dacres were part of a formidable supporting cast all year.
Through it all, Powery said he had help managing both squads from figures like Ron Profitt and Gonzalo McLaughlin.
“Shane Evans – Juawon’s father – was a big supporter. Bruce Reynolds made a good coaching assistant. A big shoutout to Owen Taylor – Arin’s dad – and my wife, Robert Powery, for supporting me. I thank them all and my inspiration was my 19-month-old son Samuel, who’s already playing basketball.
“They helped both teams be influential this season because we all supported both teams and pushed all the players in training,” he said.
On the girls side, the Lynx personified determination through adversity. In spite of losing their star player, Hannah Parchment, and going through a late-season skid, the side rebounded to claim their first-ever championship. Khailan O’Connor carried the load offensively with Parchment’s departure and in the finals, she came up with 39 points. Her supporting cast, led by Jade Wheeler and Janel Style, made timely plays throughout the campaign.
Cole, 32, said he drew heavily on his playing days to motivate the team.
“Winning doesn’t occur without patience, dedication, and the ability to think outside the box,” Cole said. “I have always considered myself to be a student of the game and over time, I have learned the importance of playing to strengths and improving weaknesses. The Coach of the Year award means a lot to me because, on paper, we were not the strongest team and achieving this title required strategy to negate the dominance of the stronger teams. I get a greater feeling from winning with an average team than winning with a group of very talented players.
“There’s a lot more for me to learn as a coach but I think I’m on the right path. Funny enough, most of the better coaches in the world were never the greatest players so maybe I’m destined for this. I would consider myself an average basketball player and, although I have won in every age group of school basketball, I was never the team’s superstar. I pride myself on playing hard defense and maintaining a calm head from the guard position, even when the going gets tough. These are some of the qualities I try to impart unto my basketball teams.
“Further, basketball has acted as my release from daily life. It’s important for young people to have a place where they can develop and express their talents instead of turning to wrong doing or drugs. Basketball did and continues to do that for me and I thought it was important to ensure that I showed kids this opportunity to be part of a team and contribute to something fulfilling.”
Adding to Cole’s triumph was his ability to outmaneuver Wendy Manzanares – coach of the Sparks and one of Cayman’s top basketball minds – and contain regular season Most Valuable Player April Ebanks. For the chartered surveyor, making the right moves will be his focus in 2014.
“In terms of basketball, I’m 32 years old and it’s important that I keep playing so I can maybe compete against my son one day,” he said. “I have taken up distance running as a method to increase my endurance and fitness levels. I will continue coaching youth basketball as long as I can because I genuinely love doing it. Hopefully, in the near future, I can upgrade to adult basketball and probably become a national team coach of somewhere one day.
“For me, the most challenging thing about coaching is managing personalities. One team can have 10 or more personalities and as a coach, you have to know how, when and what to say to each player. It’s important to determine the best way of communicating with the team in order to ensure that they execute the game plan in unison.”