By Edison Jefford
He perfected the Fosbury Flob at the National Schools’ Championships at the Providence National Stadium in 2007, which consequentially got him a gold medal, then he switched disciplines and became as equally or even more dominant.
Akeem ‘The Dream’ Kanhai embodies the concept of athleticism that is fundamentally an enduring coordination of physical ability capable of lasting in any sport, but technology is not in support of that proliferation of multi-disciplines.
The reality of being unable to manage two major sport disciplines cramped Kanhai into a decisive corner at just 15 years old. His options were clear: Track and Field or Basketball and as time proved, the latter was his finest choice.
The 18-year-old national junior basketball captain rose from clearing High Jump bars to a prominent place among the best ‘ball’ players to have emerged in the last decade.
Kanhai is in no doubt a special talent worthy of this feature.
Kaieteur Sport continues its weekly column that is aimed at highlighting some of the best junior sportsmen and women in Guyana. This week our microscope roams Linden and an examination magnifies its prodigy, Kanhai, ‘The Dream’.
In 2007, while he was still into high jumping, Kanhai made known his desire to develop a passion he had since he was seven years old. He wanted to play basketball and his hunger placed him among the Inter-Guiana Games players that year. ‘The Dream’ was ambiguous then, but no attempts were made to step out of that haziness since he understood his role and function. Kanhai was still learning the game then, and as time proved, he was satisfied with doing so in the shadows.
That year was Travis Burnett’s breakout year and ‘The Dream’ was awaiting clarification he got the following year after a Second Division tournament in Linden. There was no point of return as ‘The Dream’ started to become reality.
“I did not get any quality minutes from playing Second Division but that motivated me to train harder.
When I went to First Division and I got some minutes, I started to feel like I am showing improvement,” he told this newspaper yesterday.
He was not wrong. Though Kanhai had been playing basketball since he was seven years old, his growth in Track and Field had sidelined the sport during that time. His promotion to First Division in his second year after returning was due progress.
Kanhai became a regular feature of Amelia’s Ward Jets Division I team in 2008 and there were absolutely no questions about if he was ready. The successes were twofold: Jets was winning and Kanhai was developing individually. His improvement was rewarded when he got the Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award for leading his school, Mackenzie High to the Victory Valley Royals Schools Championships in 2008, which he repeated resoundingly in 2009.
“Well basically I do some things better than the average player and then I look at how it’s mastered. At first it wasn’t that serious, I just played for fun, but then I had developed the work ethic, training in mornings and afternoons,” he said.
He was forced to do so against the backdrop of preparing for the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) Exam, which he successfully completed, earning eight subjects. Merging sport and academics was a dream-come-through for Kanhai.
The basketball player also completed the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) where he got six subjects. Standing at approximately 6’2”, he became one of the most talked about players last year following his exams.
His confidence was clear and for the first time in his basketball life, Kanhai believed that the future of the sport squarely rest on his shoulders.
He moved from the reserved bench-warmer to the best fundamentally sound junior player.
Kanhai’s heroics, though there is less scope locally for him to really show-off his vibrant game, landed him the captaincy of the Guyana national junior team last year for his first major task in neighbouring Suriname last September.
The assignment was to bring home the bacon that Burnett and others won in 2007, which he was also a part of earning. He said not being able to retain the Guiana Games title was perhaps his most disappointing moment in the sport.
“At that time (the IGG 2009) I had one thing in my mind. That was to bring home the cup for the country but eventually we fell short. I took most of the blame because I know they were depending on me,” the humble ‘ball’ player said.
“I was not able to bring home their success. But I do not think that it was one man’s fault, you could say that, in a sense, it was poor execution from the team. You could it was my most disappointing moment,” he continued with a smirk.
Guyana had lost to Suriname in the final after a Herculean effort brought them back into the game from being heavily down. Kanhai has, however, brushed that off and has twice led Linden’s juniors to victory against Georgetown.
The Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry Point of Sale Clerk admits that there are not a lot of opportunities here for him to develop but he will not allow that to affect his work ethic and his general approach to the game he loves.
“Well the only way of dealing with that is to train harder and keep the drive in me. I have a scholarship in thought but it’s just the chance for me to get through with one,” he stated adding that he knows he will be competitive internationally.
He said his favourite player is Miami Heats’ guard, Dwayne Wade but does not believe in him being the best player in the NBA right now. Kanhai is the real deal and only time can tell if ‘The Dream’ is as real as it appears.
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