Vanguard boys must earn time

A trio of young Caymanians are slowly fitting in on Floridian courts.

Juawon Ebanks, Franz Manderson Jr. and Arin Taylor are competing for the Vanguard School Panthers in Lake Wales, Florida. The trio have excelled in various local competitions over the years and were part of the Cayman Islands national Under-17 basketball team – competing at the 2012 CentroBasket Championships in San Salvador, El Salvador. According to Panthers head coach Dan Sheppard, the youngsters will need to improve in training to make a big impact on the 2014-2015 season.

“First, let me say that the three young men bring many assets to our program and all of them are very respectful and polite,” Sheppard said. “The players will have different limits as to their playing time throughout the year, with much of it depending on their progress.”

The Cayman trio are labelled as juniors. Ebanks, 16, is listed as a 5-ft, 11-inch, 165-pound point guard, Manderson Jr., 17, is billed as a 6-ft, 3-inch, 210-pound power forward/center and Taylor, 16, is registered as a 5-ft, 10-inch, 165-pound guard.

Vanguard School, which had admissions representatives in Cayman take part in a school fair this month, is a boarding school for students in grades 5-12. Located near Legoland, Disney World, the private institution was founded in 1966 and caters to young people with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, Attention Deficit Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome.

Vanguard competes in District 6 of the Florida Class 2A high school varsity division. After losing the season opener to the Durant Cougars of Plant City, the Panthers are slated to be in action against the Victory Christian Academy Storm of Lakeland on Dec. 12.

The Cayman trio have already garnered hype in the Sunshine State. MaxPreps, a high school sports website owned by CBS Sports that covers nearly 40,000 teams in the United States, noted that, “Juawon has the potential to be the best point guard in the district this year. Looking forward to his continued hard work. Franz will bring depth to the Panthers and is expected to get a lot of playing time quickly.”

Sheppard expects the Cayman players to be notable contributors in the future.

“All three of the students choose to come to Vanguard at different times. As far as long-term plans and expectations, I expect all three of the players to continue to progress in a timely manner and be a major part of our team as we move forward.”