Jorge Ebanks is taking his basketball talents to Portugal.
Ebanks, 28, agreed to a one-year deal with Angrabasket, which plays in a third-tier domestic league. The George Town native met up with his new club over the weekend, flying out from New York City on Oct. 11 for the city of Angra do Heroismo, on the island of Terceira, within the Azores region of Portugal. Angrabasket, which has been in existence since 1998, is a semipro club that has played in Proliga – the country’s second-biggest competition – the last 10 years before being relegated last season.
Ebanks, who signed Thanos Koukouravas of LA Sports Agency to be his agent this summer, says the move is about continuing his career.
“I just signed with a team in Portugal for the 2014-2015 season, I’m excited about that,” Ebanks said. “I can’t wait to get there and showcase my talent and hopefully help the team win a championship. I decided to play for them because I wanted to help bring them back up to the second league and I have never been to Portugal before so it’s a great chance to see what their culture is like. I love to visit and travel different places to network and meet new people.
“That is the hardest part of my job: being able to communicate when I’m in a foreign country and they don’t speak English. I’m a little worried about not knowing Portuguese but I’m sure I will find ways to communicate and start to pick up on the language once I’m around them for a few months.”
Ebanks was previously in Middlesbrough, England playing for semipro outfit Tees Valley Mohawks in the English Basketball League. He was the team captain for two years and had arguably his best individual campaign last season. He was named Domestic and Defensive Player of the Year and listed to the All-EBL Division One First Team.
However, his efforts were not enough to prevent the Mohawks from missing the playoffs as they finished ninth in the league standings at 12-14.
The 6-foot-1-inch point guard said he was not pleased with his team’s performance.
“I would trade all of my accolades for a championship trophy at the end of the day,” he said. “The individual accolades only makes the individual happy, but the championship trophy makes everyone on the team happy – which is always supposed to be the goal in a team sport. I’m disappointed that we didn’t make the playoffs as that’s always the goal and expectation: to win championships.
“Last season was a real roller coaster ride with the team. We weren’t consistent, night-in and night-out, like we should have been as a team. We would beat top table teams one night and lose to teams at the bottom of the table another night so that consistency wasn’t there. But, we played hard every game so that’s all we can ask for at the end of the day.
“We knew the season wasn’t going to be easy, especially when the team is new and guys have to gel together – which doesn’t come overnight but takes time and practice. We also had some injuries late in the season to key players, which hurt our chances to make the playoffs. But, injuries are a part of the sport so that can’t be an excuse.”
While in England, Ebanks played alongside two other Caymanians in Jerome Narcisse and Lloyd Samuels, both 27. Narcisse had a good rookie season with the Mohawks, earning a honorable mention for the All-EBL Division One First Team. The West Bayer left the club over the summer as a free agent while Samuels renewed his contract for a second season.
Mohawks head coach Steve Butler said the club would do better this season. Ebanks says he was simply grateful for the opportunity.
“I was happy to receive the accolades at the end of the season and appreciate being recognized for my individual talents, but my main goal was to win a championship with my teammates,” Ebanks said.
“I feel like the best accolade is being called a champion, especially after a long season of hard work and going to battle every night with guys you call your teammates. There have been so many good individual players that have won individual accolades, but haven’t won any championships and I don’t want to be one of them at the end of my career.
“I really want to thank coach Butler and Tony Hanson for giving me an opportunity and taking a chance on me. Sometimes, that is all you can ask for – just the opportunity to prove yourself and prove you can play at that level and higher. I give all the praise to the Lord for truly blessing me with opportunities and the talent to play this game. I hope I am making my family and Cayman proud. I’m going to continue to do my best and putting Cayman on the map.”