By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Mahkayla Pickering and Shauliqua Fahie, who advanced to New York in December for an authentic NBA experience from the 2016 Digicel Elite Camp held here in October, are attending the NBA’s third Basketball Without Borders camp at the New Orleans Pelicans’ practice facility, as part of the NBA 2017 All Stars activities, Feb 17-19.
Both Pickering and Fahie who left on Wednesday, expressed surprise when they got the invitations and that the NBA had everything arranged for the camp which has attracted 67 boys and girls from 32 countries.
“I didn’t expect this,” Pickering said, adding that she thinks her talent stood out.
“I’m looking forward to being seen so I can get scholarship and also looking forward to seen the competition out there and what I’m really up against and see how hard others are working even though I’m working hard.”
“I didn’t expect anybody from away selecting me from the Virgin Islands,” Fahie said.
Pickering, 16, said she has been training more often and working harder than she used to, on her her stamina, doing endurance runs, getting faster and her shooting.
Fahie, also 16, has been working on her shot and her game plan, the mental aspects of the game and how she plays with others.
After seeing the Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks game in early December as part of the NBA authentic experience, Pickering said getting to see an All Stars Game had never been in her thoughts.
“I was extremely surprised,” she said, noting she’ll be glad to see her favorite players Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. “First of all, an All Star game where you have 3-points contest, rising star challenge, dunk contest, I never thought about it and never thought I would get to this, but, to have this amazing experience I’m going to make the best of it.”
Fahie expressed similar sentiments and said she wants to meet her favorite player Dwayne Wade.
The sequence of events leading up to Pickering and Fahie getting the nod almost didn’t happen noted Digicel Marketing Manager Kareem Hull. He said for budgetary reasons, they’d considered not having the BVI leg of the Digicel NBA Jumpstart Program in September.
“When the group offered for us to hold the NBA Elite Camp (in October), we knew it was not acceptable to bring so many persons from different countries here and not give Virgin Islanders a chance to compete on that level,” he pointed out. “Now we truly see the purpose of why Digicel gives back so much to the community, because as we continue to give, our community gets so much more out of it. These young ladies promised from the first time I met them, that they were going to make it to the top two that were going to New York and as they promised they delivered.”
Hull said that they are absolutely proud of Fahie and Pickering and what they have accomplished they see this as anything Digicel takes bragging rights for, because they didn’t create it and they are not the reason why it’s happening.
“We are just the company that’s being used at this time to unearth and really go through the Virgin Islands and find all of this talent and that’s the true meaning of being extra ordinary, he said. “We are truly proud of these young ladies and all the young ladies and young men who participated in the Jumpstart Program, those who made it to the Elite Camp and those who went all the way to New York.”
Hull added: “We want them to go and just shine and remember that even though they are from a little country, they’re going with a really big heart and we expect them to do the same greatness that they do when they are here all the time.”
Digicel General Manager Kevin Gordon said Pickering and Fahie have a unique opportunity that many basketball players crave.
“To have been selected to such a prestigious camp by the NBA shows that they have extraordinary talent,” Gordon said. “We are delighted that they have this opportunity which can open even more doors for them. We congratulate Mahkayla Pickering and Shauliqua Fahie and encourages them to embrace the opportunity with the same vigor they brought to the Digicel NBA Jumpstart program and the Elite Camp.”