Sports Commentary by Adlai Mudiwa
It took some new innovations and some hardwork but Basketball in St.Kitts-Nevis is definitely back on the rise. Basketball in the federation enjoyed it’s glory years back in the 80’s and 90’s with the advent of Cable TV which gave youngsters an almost daily glimpse of the likes of Micheal Jordan, Magic Johnson, Dr Jay and Larry Bird . This along with an exceptional pool of local talent made Basketball arguably the most popular sport in the federation at certain times during the 80’s. In those days sub regional tournaments were much more frequent with the OECS, Leeward Islands and Caricom Club and National Championships all being an annual staple throughout the region. St.Kitts hosted many of those tournaments and had success especially at the leeward island and OECS Club championship level. The St.Kitts Ghetto Roots were the first ever OECS Club Champions. They won that tournament in Dominica in 1985. The Hitters also won whenSt.Kitts hosted the tournament around 1990. The St.Kitts National Team also won a plethora of Leeward Islands Tournaments. The rivalry between the famous Antigua Bulldogs and St.Kitts, in particular, was legendary with Trevor Marty Huggins of St.Kitts and Niah Roberts of Antigua engaging in some very memorable sharp shooting duals.
Those glory days have been long gone . Basketball however has remained a fairly popular sport throughout the years. Although it does not attract the crowds it did in the 80’s on a consistent basis , particularly during the regular season , it has held its own especially during the playoffs where over the last few years thousands have been packing the stands to support their favoruite teams. This yeas has been no different. The crowds are turning out to basketball city. They are loud and boisterous in support of their teams.
The relatively dry 2015 has resulted in very limited weather disruptions during the course of the season. This has resulted in the season perhaps being completed the earliest it has ever been completed in at least the last decade or more. In fact this is the first time in well over a decade that new champions will be crowned before the Independence Celebrations.
Interest in SKNABA Basketball is rapidly on the rise again. The emergence of community Teams like the St.Peterz Runners and the reemergence of the St.Pauls Tuff Knots as well as the recent success of the Challengers Exodus has brought a new legion of young exciting fans to Basketball. Added to this is the very forward thinking innovation in the changing of the league formats to make the divisions much more exciting and also to increase the number of regular season games that are played in Nevis and throughout the island outside of Basketball City.
Although not yet perfected the innovation has paid huge dividends. Particularly in Nevis where for the first time the standard of Nevis basketball is at a similar level to that in St.Kitts. A decade ago anyone who said that in ten years Nevis basketball would be at a level that is comparable with St.kitts they would’ve been laughed at. Nevis presently boasts some of the best teams and players in the entire federation.
On the International scene SKNABA Players are making their mark. Young 14 year old Kareem Queely a product of the SKNABA Annual Summer Camp which this year drew over 100 kids, has been signed by European Team Real Madrid. Queeley is also a played on the National Under 16 Team of England.
Dane Rawlins is also another SKNABA product who is making his name internationally. Dane is widely regarded as the top player from St.Kitts and was just recently listed as one of the all star players at the annual NBA Basketbal Summer League in Las Vegas. The league draws scores of scouts from the NBA and the world. Dane’s performance at the league was phenomenal. According to at least one scout they would be surprised if Rawlins is not picked up by a NBA Team. Rawlins played in the 2014 SKNABA Finals but was unable to carry his Bird Rock team to Championship glory as they fell short to the eventual repeat champions the Challengers Exodus.
The SKNABA Executive must be commended on the job done with the 2015 season . In particular the playoffs which without a doubt was the most exciting playoffs in years. The Marketing and Promotional activities which included Press Conferences, Commercials, Interviews with players and teams and the nightly live coverage of the finals by ZIZ significantly heightened the interest in the league and the playoffs and in particular the finals.
The SKNABA Executive will be wise to take advantage of this renewed upward rise in the interest in local basketball. There is no doubt basketball remains one of the more popular sports in the federation.
Minister of Sports Hon. Shawn K Richards has committed to the construction of an indoor facility for basketball. This would ensure and almost guarantee a return of St.Kitts-Nevis basketball to the pinnacle of sports in the federation.
Great Job by President Tobias and his entire executive on the fantastic work done which has resulted in Basketball getting back on the Rise !