For four days, basketball fans in Jamaica gathered at the National Arena in Kingston, Jamaica to witness professional basketball in action for the first time on the island in the Elite 1 Caribbean Basketball Summer League.
It was the fulfilment of a vision conceptualized by Wayne Dawkins, founder and CEO of P.H.A.S.E.1 Academy who is aiming to make the Caribbean the next hub for professional basketball players.
The league kicked off on Saturday, August 13 with a game between the Elite 1 Horizon and the Elite 1 Rivers. The Elite 1 Horizon asserted their dominance from then with a 109 points win against the 64 points from the Elite 1 Rivers. American point guard Bobby Gray was the player of the game with a score of 20 points, nine assists, 6 rebounds and 6 steals.
The second game of the evening was between the Elite 1 Waves and the Elite 1 Storm. Elite 1 Storm rose above the Waves scoring 81 to the Waves 64 points. Co-captain of the Elite 1 Storm, Joel Bailey copped the player of the game with 17 points, three assists, five rebounds, and two steals.
The action continued on Sunday, August 14 with the first match-up between Elite 1 Horizon and the Elite 1 Waves. Team Horizon remained out of reach for team Waves scoring 76 points to the Waves’ 61 points. The Barbadian point guard, Rasheed Maynard was named player of the match. He scored 16 points and had two assists, three rebounds, five steals and one block.
The second game of the evening was between the Elite 1 Storm and the Elite 1 Rivers who faced off in a nail-biting match-up which saw both teams tailing each other by a point or two throughout the fourth quarter. In the end, it was the Elite 1 Storm who maintained their narrow lead and won the game with 109 points to the Elite 1 Waves 105 points.
American small forward Drelan Tripplett scored 23 points, had seven assists, seven rebounds and one steal and was named player of the game.
On Wednesday, August 17, the Elite 1 Rivers were beaten 91-75 by the Elite 1 Waves in the first game of the evening. American shooting guard Xander Bowers scored 21 points, had four steals, three assists and three blocks and 12 rebounds was named player of the game.
The second match-up between the Elite 1 Horizon and Elite 1 Storm saw team Horizon scoring an impressive 106 to the Elite 1 Storm’s 84 points. Canadian small forward Anton Ivey scored 23 points, had two assists, eight rebounds, 1 steal and two blocks and was named player of the game.
All four teams in the league consist of a combination of players from Jamaica, Barbados, Canada, and the United States.
In the finals on Saturday, August 20, the Elite 1 Horizon claimed the first championship title after defeating Elite 1 Storm 82-71 in the championship game.
The result was a repeat of their preliminary match-up on Wednesday where they stated their intentions for the finals in their victory against the Elite 1 Storm. This win saw them ending the tournament with a perfect 4-0 record.
Player of the game and international MVP, American point guard Bobby Gray said Elite 1 Horizon was able to dominate the league because of the bond they developed as a team.
“We wanted to win and play together as a team, be together and come out with the victory like we did. We bonded as one, we played for each other, there wasn’t no egos everybody shared the ball and played for each other,” he said.
The team’s head coach, Alphanso Remikie agrees with Gray, and he also praised the team for maintaining their solid defence throughout the game.
“They maintained their character which is playing aggressive and physically and maintained their intensity, especially in the second half of the game,” he said.
Jamaican centre player and co-captain of the Elite 1 Horizon, Nicholai Brown was recognized as the league’s local MVP after amassing 18 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks, three steals and two assists.
“It feels awesome. This is my first time getting an MVP, I always get defender awards so it feels really great,” he said.
And after promising to give fans a show in the finals, Brown is contented that his team delivered. “We really went out there and gave it our all on defence and offence. I enjoyed the entire atmosphere, just playing in front of so many people, and cameras everywhere- it’s different,” he said.
Despite not getting the result he hoped for in the finals, head coach of Elite 1 Storm, Jim Brunelli said he was happy to be a part of the inaugural event and is looking forward to the league getting even bigger.
“This event was unreal. I think Jamaican people came out and made it very special, they brought Wayne Dawkin’s vision to life. The local and international players, they made this something special and I really believe this is gonna blow up,” he said.
It is a sentiment shared by the president of the Jamaica Basketball Association, Paulton Gordon.
“We expect an expansion of this league,” he said. “Now that we’re on the radar, we have other countries and players enquiring, we have some sponsors who are seemingly interested in basketball again so we’re looking forward to pulling all the stakeholders together to see where we can get to in very short order.”
Meanwhile, founder of P.H.A.S.E.1 Academy, Wayne Dawkins said the league’s reception exceeded his expectations.
“It was amazing to be able to pull off a production at this level that had people as far away as North America and Europe saying this is incredible and they want to be a part of it,” he said.
He added; “I have to admit that in faith this is much bigger than I thought. God just kept opening doors and putting different people in place to allow it to become bigger and bigger.”
In the first match of the day, the Elite 1 Rivers beat Elite 1 Waves 88-83 to secure third place.
Meanwhile, 10 players from the four teams were selected as All-Star players. The first team consisted of; Bobby Gray, Anton Ivey, Drelan Tripplett, Adrian Forbes, and Joel Bailey. While the second team was made of Xanders Bowers, Dane Smith, Rasheed Maynard, Tre Brewer, and Nicholai Brown.
Dawkins said is he looking forward to the fall league that’s slated to begin in October and promises to integrate the community, and female basketball players, as well as form bigger partnerships with the entertainment industry.
“We got this high bar that we set and the people are expecting nothing less so we got some work ahead,” he said.
The E1CBL was sponsored by the Jamaica Basketball Association, Elite 1 Recruiting Platform, Ribbiz, TurboStats, Global Pipeline Agency, KFC, Phoenix Health Complex and Vision Centre, Athletic Fusion, Suretime Medical, Habliborange, Herbs, Facey Pharmaceuticals, M-One Production, and Confectionery and Snacks Jamaica.