By Calvin Chapman
Guyana (112) entered the 10 team, 2018 Caribbean Basketball Confederation (CBC) Men’s Championship as the second lowest ranked team, ahead of the host nation Suriname that had an International Basketball Federation (FIBA) ranking of 114.
The only persons, prior to the start of the tournament, who would’ve believed that the Golden Arrowhead posed a major title threat would’ve been the Guyanese players and management staff after they had finished last in the previous tournament hosted by Tortola in 2015.
Guyana’s training for this championship which also served as the pre-qualifier for the FIBA Americup commenced immediately after the National Club Championships and President of the Guyana Amateur Basketball Federation (GABF), Nigel Hinds, had shared with Kaieteur Sport since then that he was almost certain that Guyana would win.
Many of the head coaches in this year’s tournament held at the Anthony Nesty Sporthal in Paramaribo had experience at the United States’ National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) level in addition to being part of second and first division clubs’ setup in North America.
However, Guyana’s Coach, Junior Hercules who is a Manager at GKRS and Coaches part-time, enjoyed no such exposure with his best achievement in coming in 2017 when he led Guyana to a silver medal in the FIBA Lesser Antilles Under-18 3×3 competition.
Stanton Rose, Captain and MVP during the ‘Land of Many Waters’ first championship win, was part of that silver medal Under-18 team in the 3×3 competition last year and his development as a player has been impressive.
The 18-year-old Rose became the youngest Captain in Guyana’s basketball history and not only was he the right leader for the team but also the best player, as adjudged by CBC panel. The skipper’s best performances came against the Guyanese toughest opposition in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) during the group stage where he swooshed a tournament high 41 points and in the final against Antigua & Barbuda where he netted a game-high 26 points during his team’s 13-point triumph.
During an interview with Kaieteur Sport, Hercules stated: “We believe he (Rose) is a special talent and he has been progressively improving as a young player. He has great potential and he has proven at the highest level that he can handle pressure.”
Rose didn’t let his coach and team down and in addition to winning the MVP award, he is being targeted by some second and third division teams from the USA with additional interest from Baylor University that is part of NCAA Basketball Big 12.
Inclusive of the captain, Guyana had four teenagers in their squad, Kevon Wiggins (17), Timothy Thompson (19) and Travis Belgrave (19). Each of those players had vital changing performances that helped Guyana to title.
In the first group-game, Wiggins top scored with 18 points, Guyana crushing Grenada by 29 points. Thompson (Centre) was a rock in defence and allowed starter Shaine Webster to periodically rest easy when he took over the role. The Marian Academy sixth form student broke into an aggressive mode which was exactly what the Coach had asked of him prior to the tournament.
Belgrave didn’t spend much time on court during the Group stage then he suffered a minor knee injury which had Hercules hesitant to use him in the semifinal but the Eagles Basketball Club player had a vital role in the final and produced exactly what the Coach believed he was capable of, “Giving more with less.”
Despite not being involved much in the tournament, Belgrave was trusted by the Coach to play the latter of the third and majority of the fourth quarter where he sank a three-pointer and had three steals during an excellent defensive effort.
Most of Guyana’s team included locally based players but Anthony Moe (USA based) and Ray Victor (British Virgin Islands) proved extremely significant additions to the national team.
When Guyana squared up with the host nation and long-time rivals Suriname during a vital group stage match-up, the Dutchmen employed a double-team tactic to stop the dangerous Rose which was also the case in their semifinal match against Barbados, but Victor, Guyana’s Co-Captain, stepped up with match winning performances in both these games.
Power forward Anthony Moe was a man mountain and proved difficult for the opposition to out jump and to menacingly add to his physical dominance, Moe regularly hit shots from beyond the three-point arc.
Shaine Webster was part of the starting lineup in each match and the Center player was very consistent. Webster wasn’t flashy; he oozed calmness, came out, got double digit scores, won rebounds and got the job done, time after time.
Before departing to neighboring Suriname, the Coach had posited that, “Our defence is very good and it is important that the players know and follow their roles. Travis Burnett is in the squad and he is known as a great attacking player but his defensive work is better so his role in the team is to defend and I’m hoping that everyone follows the game plan,” and such was the case in Paramaribo.
Burnett along with Orlon Glasgow and Harold Adams who are attacking players, selflessly stuck to their defensive roles to see the tactics of the Coach play out in the team’s favour.
Looking ahead, Coach Hercules is hoping that Guyana’s amazing and maiden triumph in the CBC Championship will inspire Guyanese players in the Diaspora to reach out for an opportunity to get involved in the national set up since he knows that the Puerto Rico hosting of the second round of Caribbean qualifiers for the FIBA Americup will be extremely tough.
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