Wesleyan Christian Academy’s rise to youth basketball dominance has been quick and comprehensive.
The school’s crowning achievement was having both of its Under-19 teams square off for a championship this month. Jonathan Powery coached the Wesleyan Soldiers and Griffins this year, with the help of an extensive coaching staff. In his mind, the West Bay institution will be synonymous with success on the court in 2014.
“I’m thinking it will be exciting next year because both teams will be stronger,” Powery said. “I’m recruiting already. I know what I need, I’m losing players due to age. But I’m looking forward to both teams being back in the finals once again.”
The Soldiers were the more dominant of the two sides and capped off an undefeated season by beating the Griffins in the Dominos Under-19 Basketball League finals. That contest showcased three stars for the winners – Albis Amaya, Arin Taylor and Juawon Ebanks – that are part of the next wave of impressive talent for Cayman basketball. The losing side also showcased noteworthy players with the likes of Kameron Reynolds, Dimitri Levy and Eric Lopez offering loads of potential.
For technical director of Cayman basketball Victor “Voot” O’Garro, those players are the product of stellar coaching.
“Soldiers going unbeaten was not historic as there was an U19 team that previously went undefeated,” O’Garro said. “But I commend that group of kids for being champions and playing like that in the finals. There was sibling rivalry with the Griffins and they didn’t play as convincingly as I would expect. Alex Thompson fought to the end for the Griffins and Jimmy Clarke is an unsung hero who did all the dirty work. I thought it would be a blowout, but the Griffins put up a fight, which made for a very good final. Kudos to Jonathan, by coaching the weaker Griffin team, he made it a final.
“That’s why he is the coach of the year. He’s one of the few who continues training for his team in the offseason. The chemistry was there for both teams and it showed.”
Wesleyan’s U19 success, coupled with winning the PwC Under-16 league, is in stark contrast to earlier years. The school was never short of talent or potential stars – with the likes of Travis Stroup and Tim Corbett in the fold – but seemingly lacked the key piece of the puzzle to go from also-rans to frontrunners and eventually champions. Maybe Powery – who has won multiple youth championships and took Wesleyan to the playoffs in his first year at the helm in 2012 – is the answer.
Whether Wesleyan can emulate Wolves and Bodden Town Reapers, the previous powerhouses of youth basketball, remains to be seen. What is certain is that Powery, 24, rests his confidence in the young men – like Jerome Bailey, Daniel Britton and Tre Dilbert – he can trot out on the court.
“For Soldiers, pretty much everyone is coming back except Tim Corbett. We will lose him next year because he’s too old, he’s 18 now. He only played four games for us this season but he was a good contributor. A lot of the Soldiers played well this year. Juawon has grown tremendously in his abilities, he has progressed each and every season and he went higher up this season as a point guard. He made big baskets in big games.
“Arin constantly contributed. Naithique Jackson was the captain this year and took up the responsibility of leading the team on the court. And Albis, what can you say? He stepped up for us. In fact, all of the Soldiers did and they showed that with their stats this year.
“The Griffins were the underdog team and as is the case with all of my underdog teams, there was a surprise package. This time it was Jimmy – his first time in the league – but unfortunately it’s his last year as he’s too old. Mavrick Welds and Devonte Dacres stepped up, Kameron is only 13 and controls the game as a point guard. Alex did well and improved a lot to be named Most Improved Player of the Year. Then again, Alex was one of many Griffins that improved this year.”