First Basketball Leagues since 2017 return with District play format

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Virgin Gorda Jr. Bayside Blazers Coach, Rhennie Phillips, left, Cromwell Smith, 7th District East Rockers 2.0 and 8th District Hawks Manager, BVIBF PR Officer, Eustace “Boss” Freeman, Willful Skillful player Joy Victor and Milton McLean, 3rd District Coordinator of 3D, Filipinas and Da 3rd

By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway

15 teams from across the territory will swing into action on Saturday at the Multipurpose Sports Complex, marking the BVI Basketball Federation’s first league since the 2017 season. Since that last league, Hurricane Irma damaged the Multipurpose Sports Complex, a new executive committee was elected and the Covid-19 pandemic caused a further delay to the resumption of play, which has now embraced a District format under new President Derrick Varlack.

Unlike the past, teams can only field players from the district in which they live on their roster, bringing parity and unknown elements to the league. Activities will begin with a 6:30 p.m. parade of teams from the Sunday Morning Well to the Multipurpose Sports Complex, followed by an opening ceremony and two games.

“That is one of the methods in the past that has brought great success for basketball without even devising it that way,” Public Relations Officer Eustace “Boss” Freeman told Island Sun Sports. “That’s just how it was. People would come from the East End area with the East Rockers, from West End with the Guns, and we thought that format would be an excellent format to rejuvenate basketball in the territory.”

Freeman said when the concept was introduced, there was initial resistance as people had grown accustomed to teams pulling players from everywhere to build super teams. He said after they realized the purpose for the method, everyone came together and got their teams.

“I know, the community for one, is a big fan of this district format,” he said. “We’re looking forward for an exciting league and can’t wait to get it going.”

Rhennie Phipps, Virgin Gorda Jr. Bayside Blazers Coach, told Island Sun Sports that he was one of the skeptics of the district format. “Anytime you’re starting something new after putting it off for such a long time, you want full participation,” he noted of the league that hadn’t been played for the last three seasons. “In my mind, that full participation we wouldn’t have gotten based on what I know in the past with the districts. Some districts are very weak and some are reluctant to bring teams, so, I figured that, but now, I’m a bit optimistic about it. I think what this would do, is force development in a district and as age groups come along, there’ll be a transition from Jr. to Sr., and we’ll get that full participation coming forward.”

Cromwell Smith who manages the 7th District’s East Rockers 2.0 and the 8th District Hawks, said that from the beginning, he was excited about the format, which said brought back memories of the Softball league, when each district had a team and a playing field. He noted going from district to district generated social and economic activity. “I’m hoping that we could really get to that format at some time,” he said. “I know we don’t have facilities in all the districts, so we have to centralize in the Complex for now. But I think as we progress to districts having or sharing courts, we’ll be able to then switch truly to the district system which will generate unity in the community, camaraderie, excitement and economic activity.”

Milton McLean said when he heard of the format, he was very, very please and commended Varlack and his executive for having the courage to introduce the format.

Phipps said he’s confident Jr. Bayside Blazers can claim the title, while Smith said they expect to take one of the two division titles at stake to East End. McLean said his District Three team, is also “looking to take back something to Sea Cows Bay.” 

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