Talented Belizean youths headed to Lebron James AAU Tournament
The National Sports Council and Belize Basketball Federation earlier today announced the names of the contingent of junior basketball players who are heading to the King James Classic AAU Tournament being held by famous NBA player, Lebron James, in Ohio, USA. The ultimate prize is securing a scholarship. News Five’s Delahnie Bain reports.
Delahnie Bain, Reporting
The fifteen Belizean basketball players who will be heading to Ohio to compete in one of the largest international high school tournaments were announced today. According to the Basketball Technical Officer, Bernie Tarr, the athletes went through a tough selection process.
Bernie Tarr, Basketball Technical Officer, National Sports Council
“We’re taking a team to the Lebron James AAU Tournament called the King James Classic in Akron, Ohio—that’s right outside of Cleveland—and we had a countrywide tryout. We went to all the districts and held tryouts and we invited anywhere from three to eight players from each district to Belmopan last weekend. We saw over two hundred players throughout the country, we narrowed that list down to forty-eight, invited them to Belmopan last weekend. We stayed Saturday and Sunday; had eleven hours of basketball those two days and narrowed that list down to twenty-one. Then we invited them to Belize City yesterday and had the final tryout and narrowed that list down to the fifteen players.”
But the tournament is not about winning a trophy; instead the players have a chance to secure a college scholarship to play and study in the US. It’s an opportunity that the athletes have dreamt of for years and with the tryouts behind them, they are pumped and ready for the tournament.
Kashief Thomas, Basketball Player, Sadie Vernon Technical High School
“Dat dah mi always my dream; coming up dah mi always my dream fi go somewhere far away and try get wah scholarship and fi seh like I made it you know and mek things happen.”
“How long have you been playing basketball?”
“Actually from Standard four, primary school. I attended St. Luke Methodist and from then, standard four, cause I was playing drums so I decide dis drum to big fi me so I have to start bounce di ball.”
Brian White, Basketball Player, Wesley College
“The tryouts were not hard, the only thing that was kinda complicated for me was laying up with my left hand. That was the only hard part about it.”
“Now, you will be going up against some tough players. You think you’re ready for that?”
“Yes ma’am because I’m an aggressive player and I know how to play against other aggressive players.”
Akeem Walters, Basketball Player, Belmopan Comprehensive
“It was intense for me. It was intense; I had to work really hard.”
“So what do you think of the opportunity you have now to compete against these international players and maybe get a scholarship?”
“I’m so happy. For me it’s a dream come true. I have it on a Bristol board in my room; that was one of the goals I wanted to accomplish. So it’s a dream come true for me.”
“The number one goal that we have is to get one of these players or more a college scholarship through basketball of course. That’s what AAU basketball is all about; all the college coaches in the country are going be at this tournament. It’s one of the world’s largest tournaments. There were ninety-nine teams that participated in this tournament last year throughout the United States and a few from Canada. And right now there are no Belizeans that went to high school here that are now playing college basketball; there’s not one in the states. So my goal is to get at least one.”
The games are from April twenty-seventh to the twenty-ninth so until then, it will be training, training and more training for the team.
“We’re gonna play some exhibition games against different teams; teams from Mexico. We’re gonna play against UB and Galen and all different kind of teams to get in shape.”
“Actually some stuff weh I do, I need fi drop dat and get serious and start workout hard; go to di gym cause I have to get body. Get dah hard work out so got dah energy cause yoh wah play against bigger bodies, heights, and dah hard work yoh have to put een.”
“Training, I have to start hit the road, run, get prepared and work hard because it’s all about hard work.”
As for the players who didn’t make the cut, Sadie Vernon athlete, Kashief Thomas, encourages them to consider programs like the Belize Bank Bulldogs team, which has been a stepping stone for him in basketball.
“I want big up Belize Bank Bulldogs cause ih start from deh too because Rupert Brown, Roscoe Rhys and other coaches weh deh behind me, always give me good compliments. Belize Bank dah wah lee spot weh I usually go every Saturday go workout. So dehn players weh noh mek it, noh have to worry cause dehn always have Saturdays fi go dah Belize Bank fi have dehn workout. And Belize Bank even di start wah program fi travel. So who noh get pick wah still got wah chance fi go somewhere.”
There will be around one thousand, four hundred athletes in the tournament, but Tarr is confident in the level of talent he saw during the tryouts. Delahnie Bain for News Five.
The team is made up of eight athletes from Belize City, two from Dangriga, and one each from Orange Walk, Punta Gorda, Belmopan, San Pedro and San Ignacio.