16 November 2022
Eager to see some elite athleticism and basketball talent on display? Look no further than Camana Bay.
The Cayman Classic basketball tournament returns to the Cayman Islands this month. While the tournament games will be played in the John Gray High School gym, the new Cayman International School High School gym will host team practices as well as a youth basketball camp.
The eight-team tournament, which is making its long-awaited return following two years off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is slated for 21-23 Nov. at John Gray High School.
“Let’s be honest: Division I [college] basketball is essentially professional now, so it’s always a great opportunity to have kids see professional athletes that close because it’s not a level we get to see very often here,” explained Camana Bay Senior Property Manager Jeffrey Wright.
Louisiana State University’s Adam Miller and Jamarion Sharpe, of Western Kentucky, headline the tournament's star power.
Miller is ranked the No. 73 prospect while Sharpe is tapped No. 77, according to NBAdraft.net's Top 100 Prospects big board, meaning these two players in particular have a shot at one day playing in the National Basketball Association.
“You can’t truly describe the value of an experience like this for children to watch and learn from these players because now they can see exactly who they are aspiring to be," Wright said.
CIS students will be treated to collegiate workouts for three days as LSU and Western Kentucky join Kansas State, Illinois State, Tulane, Nevada, Rhode Island and Akron for the tournament.
But the engagement doesn’t end there.
At least 75 local players are set to take part in a two-hour youth camp with a select group of coaches on 19 Nov. The camp is open to the public. There will be an added Special Olympics session following that camp.
“This is a huge opportunity for the kids because they’re getting to train with college coaches and seeing what it takes to make it at that level,” said Cayman Islands basketball technical director Victor “Voot" O’Garro.
“Since we started this initiative, we’ve sent over 40 kids overseas through basketball and that’s because the young players can see the opportunities in front of them now instead of just dreaming it," he said.
Created in 2017, the Cayman Islands Classic has featured major programmes like Cincinnati, Clemson, Creighton, Iowa, Nebraska and 2006 Final Four Cinderellas George Mason.
But the tournament went on a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic before tournament founder Joe Wright announced the Classic’s return.
“It was just another setback we had to deal with like the rest of the world for the last two years, but the this tournament really brings a buzz to the island like nothing else,” said O’Garro.
“A lot of our partners have been hit hard from a business perspective so we want to thank them and the support we get from government because this tournament brings in something like $2 million in total business for our tourism product.
“These teams travel with family, friends, staff and a lot of their alumni and then they spread the good word back home about Cayman to the other teams who can’t wait to be a part of our Classic,” he added.
Next year’s invitational promises to be bigger still after Wright revealed that eight women’s Division I teams, in addition to the customary men’s schools, are committed to appear in the 2023 Classic.
This article was originally published in the November 2022 print edition of Camana Bay Times.