By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
THE high school basketball season may be over, but aspiring student athletes still look to take advantage of the many recruitment opportunities like the Darell Sears Showcase.
The showcase continues to be a staple on the Bahamas' basketball calendar and gains recognition by showcasing the best talent the country has to offer.
The 16th edition of the event is scheduled to be hosted April 27-29 at the St George's Gymnasium in Freeport, Grand Bahama.
Since its inception, the showcase has facilitated over $2 million in scholarships to over 100 student athletes to attend various levels of colleges and high schools in the United States.
Event sponsors include the Freeport Council, Nesbitt Rentals, Kosha and the Ministry of Tourism.
At the end of the 2017 event, a record five participants were offered scholarships by representatives of visiting programmes.
Approximately 60 players participated in the showcase which featured scouts, coaches, and representatives from 25 high schools and colleges in the United States, ranging from JuCo to Division I.
The showcase hosted coaches from Southern Mississippi University, Arkansas State, Stetson University, Arkansas-Little Rock, University of Louisiana-Monroe, Stephen F Austin, Texas A and M Corpus Christi, St Petersburg Junior College, Miami Dade Junior College, Paris Junior College and Edward Waters University.
There were also four high schools out of the US and a representative from a Canadian college in attendance.
In addition to the players to receive offers, an additional 10 drew strong interest and are on the fast track for future opportunities if they are unable to capitalise immediately.
In a new addition as a pair of former participants signed their letters of intent to attend institutions in the United States when Shaquillo Fritz signed on to join the Arkansas State Red Wolves while Qyemah Gibson made it official with the Miami Dade Sharks.
Sears, the longtime coach of the Jaguars, began the practice of travelling with his players to the US to gain exposure for his players in the late 1990s. Since then, he has been able to forge a network of connections that now affords a greater number of players those same opportunities by showcasing their skills at home. Over the course of the weekend, players engaged in individual skill development, as well as scrimmages.
Sears talked about the improvements he has seen in the event since its inception. "My eyes are a bit different so I always look for the little things. The coaches and the kids had a wonderful time and I think our people had a great job. There are improvements we can make and I think that I am learning more and more that if one child gets the opportunity at the next level then it's a success," he said.
"The thing that the coaches have spoken to me about is the guys' athleticism. What they are excited about, especially for the ones that have been coming the last two, three years and what they have recognised is that the skill set and IQ of the game has improved. We know we have guys that can attack but in years past one of the knocks has been guys wouldn't know when to pull up or when they get to the rim they wouldn't know the appropriate move, now they recognise defences better and their games have improved."
The age bracket for the showcase ranged from 9th grade to unattached. It also featured current Bahamian junior college players looking to progress into Division I. "Hopefully we can reach a bigger audience and reach even more programmes in the future, particularly for those coaches who can not attend," Sears said.
Showcase alumni includes some of the most recognised names in Bahamian basketball over the past 16 years. Some of the past participants in the showcase include professional players Buddy Hield (NBA) Magnum Rolle, Kadeem Coleby, Kentwan Smith, Garvin Hunt and current division I players Lourawls Nairn Jr, Kentwan Smith, Prince Cooper Jr, Travis Munnings, Nathan Bain, Kenneth Taylor, Andre Sands and Dwight Coleby.