Championship swimmer Andrew Smilley is now a basketball star.
Mr. Smilley, 29, is well known in Cayman circles for his success in the pool, particularly in Special Olympics competitions, where he has won multiple gold medals at international events.
In 2015, he switched his focus to basketball. He has just been announced as a member of the Special Olympics team that will play with National Basketball Association athletes as part of an exhibition game connected with the NBA All Star Game. The Special Olympics event will be played at 5 p.m. Feb. 15, in Charlotte, North Carolina, with the NBA All Star Game scheduled for 7 p.m. on Feb. 17.
Mr. Smilley, who works for Red Sail Sports, is one of only 12 athletes chosen from a worldwide submission of nominees. Six of the players are Americans. The rest are from six other countries.
“It means everything to me to represent the Cayman Islands,” Mr. Smilley said. “I’m looking forward to doing my best and working with the team. I can’t wait.”
Each team at the event will have six Special Olympics athletes and six current or former players from the NBA and WNBA. The athletes will get tickets to the weekend’s All Star game and have the chance to meet and greet NBA and WNBA players.
“The only [basketballer] I know is LeBron James,” Mr. Smilley said, “but I don’t know if he’s going.”
Fareed Hosein is Mr. Smilley’s coach. He said he became aware of the NBA event when it was first held four years ago. At that time, there was no Cayman Islands athlete that qualified to be nominated. His nomination of Mr. Smilley involved detailing the athlete’s background and it incorporated a video highlighting Mr. Smilley’s career.
Mr. Hosein said he thinks Mr. Smilley’s success in the pool may have helped in the selection process.
“His name is kind of known a bit to them,” he said.
Mr. Smilley has taken to the court almost as well as he does to the water, Mr. Hosein said.
“He’s very good,” he said. “He picked up the game pretty quickly. He’s always kind of played and hung around with us. He plays football too.”
Mr. Smilley will be on the Cayman Islands Special Olympics team that travels to Abu Dhabi in March for the World Championships. Mr. Hosein said a contingent of 40 athletes, coaches and chaperones will be going. He estimated it will cost about $100,000 and the organization is working on raising the last 25 percent of that before the team leaves.
He said he’s hoping the attention Mr. Smilley gets from the NBA event will bring more attention to the Special Olympics effort here in Cayman.
“It shows how we’re kind of regarded on the world stage,” he said. “This program is doing a lot for a lot of athletes.”