College basketball's best to tip off at CIS

College basketball's best to tip off at CIS

It happens every November on basketball courts around Camana Bay, an annual collection of some of the best basketball players on the planet.

Last year it was Keyontae Johnson, a 2023 NBA draft pick.

In 2017 it was Jacob Evans III, a first-round NBA draft pick. Luka Garza was also there. He was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves four years later.

They're here because of the Cayman Classic, the annual college basketball tournament featuring some of the best programmes and players in the U.S. Participating teams have used the Arts & Recreation Centre and Cayman International School gyms to practise before the tournament since the Cayman Classic's inception in 2017.

Female basketball player talking to reporter
Angel Reese and the defending national champion Louisiana State University Tigers will highlight a loaded Cayman Classic women's tournament, which will accompany the men's tournament for the first time.

It's more of the same in 2023, but with a twist.

This year's event will feature both a men's and a women's tournament and the women's side, in particular, offers an impressive lineup of top-tier teams and players. The women's tournament features defending national champion Louisiana State University, highly ranked Virgina Tech and a University of Connecticut programme that has established itself as a women's basketball dynasty spanning two decades.

The players are just as impressive. UConn's Paige Bueckers was named Associated Press Women's College Basketball Player of the Year in 2021 as a freshman. LSU's Angel Reese was an Associated Press All-American in 2023 and has 2.6 million Instagram followers.

"I think this is a huge deal that so many storied programmes are coming to Cayman and practising in our high school facility," said Justin Golob, CIS physical education teacher.

Last year, Cayman Classic organisers provided free tickets for CIS students to attend games. This year, CIS staff are hoping the school's basketball players and students are able to gain even more access to what have traditionally been closed pre-tournament practices.

"I think it could benefit our athletes because they can see firsthand such a high quality of basketball, plus the commitment and effort it takes to compete at that level," said Golob, who also plays with the Cayman Islands national basketball team. "This year with the return of the men’s tournament plus such a strong women’s field coming to Cayman, we want to leverage this opportunity to grow our programmes and spark interest in basketball."

The 2023 Cayman Classic men's tournament is 19-21 Nov. while the women's tournament is slated for 24-25 Nov. All tournament games are held at John Gray High School.

This article was featured in the November 2023 issue of Camana Bay Times.

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