Daniel Augustine ventured into uncharted territory for basketball in the Cayman Islands two years ago when he took a group of nine Under-19 boys to participate in the Billy Mims Summer Camp at Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne.
It was like venturing into unknown territory as no one from these islands had ever attended this particular camp.
In spite of the criticism received prior to going, the experience proved to be phenomenal for the group, who had the opportunity to meet other boys with a similar passion for basketball. Participants hailed from across the United States and from countries as far as Turkey.
There was no second thought about returning last summer and the number of Cayman players doubled, with 17 youngsters attending as part of the Cayman Islands Hoopsters youth development program. All were joined by Augustine – the program’s head coach, parents and coaches, who made the trip both years.
When leaving each camp, Mims would say that one day he would be visiting the Hoopsters in Cayman.
The most successful coach in Florida Tech history made good on that promise last month. After arriving in Cayman, he witnessed the Hoopsters take charge at the Camana Bay Arts and Recreations Centre in the Digicel Men’s League division two playoff game against the Titans, winning 61-58. From there, Mims hosted an informational session at the VIP Lounge of the Truman Bodden Sports Complex.
Invited guests – such as technical director for Cayman basketball Victor “Voot” O’Garro and Director of Sports Collin Anglin – heard about the process of college eligibility and the requirements to become a student-athlete.
During his visit, Mims also spoke with the local media and offered an insight into why he came to Cayman.
“That’s my passion in life – helping young people to understand how great this game is,” Mims said. “There’s a lot of great young athletes here. There are young people that run very fast and jump very high, but what I’ve noticed is the dedication of the young people.
“Coach Daniel and his team, the development they’re doing with the young people, is phenomenal.
“Last year, when they came to our camp at Florida Tech, we had over 700 young people for the week they were there. But they stood out for their discipline, and they were some of the nicest young men at our campus. They represented the Cayman Islands with extreme class.”
Mims staged an Easter holiday camp at Camana Bay for boys and girls ages 6-17 and he also held intensive training for the Hoopsters U-17 and U-19 teams. Mims said, “It’s important that young people work on the fundamentals. The NBA playoffs are going on right now, and there’s a big guy playing who’s called The Big Fundamental, Tim Duncan. He’s from the Virgin Islands. Why can’t the next NBA star like Tim Duncan be from the Cayman Islands?”
In July, the Hoopsters will return to the Billy Mims camp in Florida. That trip is being made possible by the support of Caledonian Global Financial Services, the Ministry of Sports, Frank Hall Homes, CNB, Dart, A.L. Thompson’s, Lion’s Club, Foster’s Food Fair, Sunshine Suites and the MLA Anthony Eden.
Augustine, who is the head coach for Cayman’s national U-16 boys team, says the benefits of the camp will be evident over the next five years.
“It’s not just about playing basketball, but interacting with kids of different age groups and seeing different levels of play,” Augustine said. “As the camp starts from 6-year-olds, it’s amazing to watch the kids already have an idea to play basketball the correct way.
“Getting into the mix of that atmosphere certainly helps the kids back home. They understand more what it takes to become a better player and better person. It opens the opportunity to go to Florida Tech. You never know if one of our kids might end up going there for an education, so it benefits in a holistic way.
“We have a five-year plan to visit international tournaments because as these kids get older, of course, they’re going to get more experienced. So we want to use this experience and challenge them a little bit more within the next five years.
“We have players as young as 12 in the program and they’re at that age where they can hone fundamentals. For the U-12 group, the plan is for them to be ready to experience the level of play the U-16s got to experience playing San Andreas of Colombia over Easter.
“In the next few years, I’m expecting the younger kids to transition into the U-15s, then the U-17s, the U-19s and then we should have phenomenal men’s and women’s national teams.”
For more information on the Hoopsters, call Daniel Augustine at 938-0185 or [email protected]