“My role isn’t to teach these kids basketball, it’s to keep them out of prison.”
A new basketball project in Windsor Park is more than just a sports initiative, added Cory McGee, who coaches the under-18 national basketball team.
“Anytime I can see a basketball court with night lights, that’s an attractive place for me,” he said. “Everything that happens within their elements, as it pertains to being out after- hours in Windsor Park, it is always affiliated with crime and drugs. So why not change the narrative and allow these kids to lead the way and set an example for other kids?”
Over the last week, McGee, along with Orville Richardson – who designed a mural for the basketball court – and several neighbourhood teenage boys who helped to paint the site, located off Hawkins Drive in Windsor Park, completed the project.
McGee said he hopes to keep young men on the straight and narrow while promoting inclusion.
“What you’re looking at is history,” said McGee. “It’s a mural on a basketball court, which represents diversity in your culture, diversity in your thinking and obviously the Cayman Islands is made up with people from all over the world.”
In addition, he is trying to keep drugs out of the neighbourhood.
“Obviously Windsor Park has a different type of narrative; some people say it’s a bad place, but if you think you’re going to smoke weed, or vape at this park, you’re going to have to find another place because now these kids care about it. They spent a countless amount of hours to make the court look like what it looks like now.”
As to the possible effects of marijuana usage, Verywell Mind, a website promoting mental health, noted that US teens who smoke marijuana, compared to those students who do not, are more likely to get poor grades and drop out of high school as well as develop mental health disorders.
In addition to his message of keeping the court free of drug use, McGee said that the process of painting the court took seven days and, during that time, he taught the boys the importance of discipline, commitment and hard work.
“That’s what the community should be about building,” said McGee.
Jevon Morgan spends a lot of time playing basketball at the court and said, before its recent renovations, it wasn’t a pleasant place.
“The court was all mashed up,” said Morgan. “Before, it didn’t have paint, it was all messed up with cracks and slippery, and the fence, the ball used to go over into people’s yards.”
He added, “We just come out here to play basketball, that’s what we love doing.”
Outside of painting the mural, the Public Works Department has also stepped in and is looking to make some enhancements of its own.
Public Works staff raised the height of the fence on one side of the court by 4 feet so it is now 12 feet high, acting park manager Crosby Solomon told the Compass, adding the same thing will be done on the other side.
He said raising the height of the perimeter fencing will improve road safety in the area.
“The ball may go over [the shorter fence], which means it’ll be in the main road on either side,” he said. “So, once we extend it, it’s less chance of the ball going over, and hitting someone’s car and cracking people’s windshields and whatnot.”
His team is also in the process of levelling the ground with the court, Solomon said. “We want to add some fill here.” Pointing to safety issues of the players, he said, “When the guys are running on the court, if their foot ever slips off the edge, it could injure their ankles. So, what we intend to do is level off everything and fill it with concrete right around so we can prevent injuries.”
The basketball facility now also has a portable toilet, and the Department of Sports will be replacing the baskets and backboards in the weeks to come, according to Solomon.
As to improving other courts around Grand Cayman, McGee said he hopes to bring the initiative to more districts through his non-profit organisation In Between Dreams.
“Richardson and I look forward to taking projects like this to various districts around the island and create a vision for them and their outdoor basketball courts,” he said, adding the focus would be on empowering the young people in those neighbourhoods.