Youth basketball is gearing up for its latest competition.
The annual Dominos Pizza Under-19 League, staged by the Cayman Islands Basketball Association, is expected to begin next week. Over the past few months, clubs have been retooling in the hopes of a strong showing in what is arguably Cayman’s premier junior competition on the court. Among the teams making preparations and recruiting players is DREAM basketball club – with its acronym standing for Dedication, Responsibility, Education, Attitude and Motivation. It was started last year by local coach Wendy Manzanares, who says her girls squad figures to be an inexperienced group.
“I think it will be a great experience to have a team compete in the under-19 league,” Manzanares said. “We have a fairly young team with most players being aged 13-16. Having some of our newer players playing amongst the older, more experienced players helps them improve their game and it will, in turn, increase the overall level of play in the other youth leagues such as the under-14 and under-16.”
DREAM will be competing, as a club, in the competition for the first time – thanks in large part to sponsorship from Home Gas. Many members were involved in last year’s tournament for various teams.
The reigning champions are the Lynx, who won two-thirds of their games behind head coach Denton Cole and budding prodigies Khailan O’Connor and Amanda Stone. The runners-up were the Sparks, who featured April Ebanks and Alessandra Hawkins.
DREAM’s first competition was the 2013 PwC Under-16 League, where the squad finished second in the regular season standings before losing in the semifinals. Kimberli Ebanks was the star performer, averaging 11.7 points and 19.2 rebounds per contest.
The association has released a tentative schedule for the under-19 league, pertaining to the boys segment. Matches are listed as starting on Sept. 30 at the association’s outdoor court on Eastern Avenue. There are five competing teams at present: the John Gray High School Knights, the JGHS Warriors, Game Takers, Soldiers and Bodden Town Wolves.
Soldiers are the reigning champions, having enjoyed an unbeaten season last year. The Wesleyan Christian Academy-based squad was coached mainly by Jonathan Powery and featured talents Albis Amaya, Arin Taylor, Juawon Ebanks and Naithique Jackson. The runners-up were the Wesleyan Griffins, who showcased Alex Thompson and Kameron Reynolds.
DREAM started its Fall term earlier this month, targeting girls ages 7-17, with practices being held every Saturday at the Triple C indoor gymnasium. The first sessions are for girls ages 7-12 from 10:15 a.m. until 11:15 a.m. with a second session on offer for those ages 13-17 from 11:15 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Aside from honing basketball skills, DREAM wants to hold regular motivational talks and participate in community service projects.
Manzanares, who took club members to the Joi Williams Basketball Camp at the University of Central Florida this summer, says her group is about improving Cayman’s youth.
“Our goals are to continue to grow interest and work on the overall development of girls basketball in the Cayman Islands. We want to positively impact the young ladies in our program so they can be successful on and off the court.”