Jamaica trip lifts hoop dreams

The men’s and youth basketball leagues began this week and some of the juniors are brimming with confidence having returned from playing in Jamaica as part of their pre-season preparations.

The Knights of John Gray Basketball club went to Jamaica as part of an exchange between high schools.

Bryce Thompson and Trevin Williamson are expected to be standouts for the Knights this season and Albis Amaya will be a key player for national team selection too, judging by their form in Jamaica.

“The juniors have come back brimming with confidence from the Jamaica experience,” said Huey Crawford, the Knights head coach and club president. Crawford previously assisted the U-17 national team as well. “All will be standouts for their teams,” he added.

Rascine Smith and Ted Padua will be competing for their respective academy teams in the Under-14 league. Tareque Simpson is poised for a breakout upcoming U-16 season.

The trip was not just about basketball, as the youngsters were also able to visit G.C. Foster College, St. George’s College and the Caribbean Maritime Institute and tour the campuses, meet administrators and instructors from the prospective schools.

The boys played four games in four days. The intention is that Jamaica will come to Grand Cayman in the near future, restarting exchange tournaments between them, said Crawford.

The first three games were in Kingston and the last game in Montego Bay.

There were many positives from the trip even though Cayman lost three.

The first game was against Calabar, defending Jamaican national champions, who won 76-51.

The second game was against St. George’s College with a victory for the Knights 50-31.

St. George’s are an exceptional team that finished second in their division last season losing to Calabar in the playoffs.

“This was definitely a confidence booster as the Knights more than held their own against a good St. George’s team,” Crawford said.

The third match was a true test for the Knights as they competed against Jamaica’s U-17 national team with a full complement of players.

The Knights were leading most of the first half in a back and forth contest. The half time score was 26-21 to Jamaica.

Unfortunately, starting point guard Bryce Thompson who had suffered a lower back bruise in the Calabar game re-aggravated it and did not play the second half of the game. The lack of depth at the position led to a 77-52 defeat.

“All considering, it was a very good showing for the Knights against Jamaica’s best,” said Crawford.

The Montego Bay game came after a long bus ride to and fro, and the Knights finished up admirably once again playing the Jamaica national team and losing 60-35.

Crawford said, “It is my sincere hope that the Knights can build on the invaluable experience of international competition and we can improve collectively as a group as we move forward.

“This can be springboard for future success, if we learn from it and continue to work hard.”

He added that there are so many more variables to take into consideration when travelling and playing that type of exhausting schedule.

“In particular, balancing proper diet and rest with activity,” he said.

“For the young men who would like to continue to play overseas whether it be in high school or college, the experience that trips like this provide is priceless. I hope this can be an annual event provided the interest and the support are in place.”

Crawford thanked Lyneth Monteith, the former John Gray High School principal, for allowing the Knights to make the trip and their sponsors Greenlight RE and Knights Security Services for their continued support, CIBA for their assistance, “and the individuals who worked so hard behind the scenes to make the trip happen – Kirlew Watson, Hurlene Grey and Errol Grey, who also helped chaperone the trip.”

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