As the Cayman Islands Basketball Association gears up for next July’s Island Games in Gibraltar, it was announced on Wednesday that Edwin Pellot-Rosa and Duran Whittaker will coach the men’s national team, while Wendy Manzanares and Corey McGee will head up the women’s squad.

The men’s team will have a bullseye on its back next July, when it will defend the gold medal it won at the last Island Games in 2017.

Coach Pellot-Rosa said that with an infusion of young talent coupled with his returning veterans, he thinks his team is up for the challenge to capture another gold.

“We want to make sure we return with a stronger team,” he said. “How the youth is looking, it’s setting the tone for bright things to happen for Cayman basketball.”

Coach Pellot-Rosa said he plans to have his team play fast-paced, full-court basketball. With a shorter-than-average team, the men will focus on speed and intensity rather than relying on size and physicality, he said.

“The day we start breeding some 7-footers, we may adjust,” added CIBA Technical Director Victor “Voot” O’Garro. “But for now, we’re in your face – we’ll ‘smell your bubble gum.’”

With similar issues facing the women’s team, Coach McGee said the women will also play an up-tempo style of basketball.

“It’s about intensity on defense and picking up full court,” he said.

The women’s team did not win a gold medal at the last Island Games, but has won two golds and one bronze since CIBA started sending teams to the tournament in 1999. The 2017 gold medal is the men’s first one after winning silver four times.

But while winning the Island Games is a nice accomplishment in itself, Mr. O’Garro said it’s also a stepping-stone for a much larger goal: qualifying for the Olympics.

The new John Gray basketball gym will go a long way toward accomplishing that goal, he said. It will allow Cayman to host more international tournaments and scrimmages, giving the teams more experience playing against high-level competition.

“Our real objective is qualifying for the Olympics,” he said. “Coming from an island so small, it’s going to take us a little while. But that’s where we’re heading.”

Tryouts for the teams start in early October.