By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Three of seven players from among 47 who heard their names called as the ones advancing to the Digicel NBA Elite Camp, which will be held in the territory at the Multipurpose Sports Comple, Oct 7-9, expressed surprise and excitement, in making the final cut.
The Digicel NBA Jumpstart Clinic which began on Friday and wrapped up on Sunday in conjunction with the Dept. of Youth Affairs and Sports, attracted players from both Tortola and Virgin Gorda.
After all the drills, tests, pointers and games were completed over the three days, Omar Walker, Nixon Hamilton, Diorys Joseph, Demoi Bradley and Kachife Bradshaw were the top boys making the cut while Shaliquah Fahie and Mahkayla Pickering became the first girls to advance. The program started last year.
“Another successful Digicel NBA Jumpstart clinic because I felt first of all, the kids gave great effort, they were working hard,” noted Troy Justice, the NBA Sr. Director, basketball operations international. “Secondly, I think they learned some new things. I saw them get better and there were some kids that really applied what we thought and got a lot better from day one to day three. It was really encouraging to see two or three of them, like the light bulb went off—that was encouraging to see as a coach.”
Justice said the players selected are great. “I think these five boys and two girls from the BVI are going to compete very, very, well against the players from other countries,” he said. “The BVI kids, they work hard, they’re hard nosed and they’re tough, they’re competitors and that was good to see.”
Fahie said she was surprised because it’s not something she expected. “I didn’t have confidence in myself so I was surprised but now I’m excited,” she said. “This means a lot. I’ve got some game and I can do some good things.”
Like Fahie, Pickering was both surprised and excited. “Even though I worked hard for what I wanted, you never know who’s out there working harder than you,” she stated. “So, I was surprised.
It was an element of surprise for Hamilton as well. “I know it was a tough competition and there were people who had more skills than me,” he said. “But, I feel good that I’m selected.”
Walker wasn’t among those selected last year, went away, worked on his game and returned but wasn’t too surprised to make the cut. “I was practicing very, very hard an I know I improved on my skills, so I guess this was the reward for working hard,” he noted. “This means now I have to work even harder because the competition will be on another level, so I have to put in more work.”
Bradley wasn’t caught off guard when he heard his name. “I worked for it and this means a lot,” he said. “All the drills I’ve been doing before and they have helped enhance my skills.”
While he wasn’t in last year’s camp, Bradshaw said he had been in other shoot outs so having his name called was expected. “This means all the hard work over the years have paid off and I thank my coaches for pushing me, not giving up on me and me pointers when I made mistakes in games,” he explained.
The coaches also came in for praise from Justice. “They were really good to work with,” he stated. “They were engaged, they were teaching, they thought some great things, so, there’s a great group of coaches here that can mentor these kids throughout the year. Hopefully, it will encourage them to do more and more here to grow the game of basketball in the BVI and we’re looking to be back on Oct 7-9.”
Having the elite camp here Justice said is and advantage for the BVI players. “When you’re hosting it, you friends are going to come out and cheer for you so that’s going to be cool and their parents can be here for them,” he noted. “That’s going to be fun for them.”
Digicel Brand Ambassador and coach Jason Edwin said it was an exciting weekend and as coaches, they left excited seeing the talent on hand.
“We saw where each individual need to improve when they go into the team setting and how they can improve their play when to got to tournaments,” he explained. “As coaches, we are going to ensure we implement those drills and instructions that Troy left with us to help basketball move in a great direction, so that when they go abroad, they and compete well and we can be proud of them.”