By BRENT STUBBS
IT’S not every day that you see former athletes come back into their communities where they got started and promote events to help uplift the spirits of the people.
Jabari Wilmott was one of those rare gems who should be commended, along with his organising committee, for putting on a tremendous inaugural Hooping by the Park Basketball Tournament on Freedom Park in Fox Hill over the Emancipation holiday weekend.
Although relatively young at age 24, Wilmott was joined by another childhood friend - 25-year-old Karon Pratt - in spearheading the successful event in an area where there is a public perception that it is prone to crime. As fate would have it, there was an unrelated murder that occurred in the wee hours on Saturday morning.
A moment of silence was offered for the late Javon ‘Debo’ Johnson on championship night by colour commentator Neville ‘Mugger-wire’ Taylor, who kept the crowd entertained for the duration of the four days of competition, along with Terry ‘DJ Winder’ Strachan and crew.
Despite the unfortunate circumstances, what I liked about the idea of the tournament was the fact that Wilmott, a 2016 graduate of St John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota where he played basketball after starring for the St Augustine’s College Big Red Machine and the Bahamas junior men’s national team, was able to showcase the vast talent from the young and the old in the community.
While the tournament was about the competition in the three divisions, under-16, under-19 and men, it was so refreshing to see how Wilmott was able to take the time out to honour some of the men who would have paved the way for him to hone his skills on the basketball court.
Stanford Davis, better known as ‘Toad,’ was one of them. Although he was not one to be considered a basketball player, it was amazing if you ever pass through the area, you would see this coach working religiously with the young men, including Wilmott and Pratt, in developing their game. He still continues to make his contribution to the growth and development of players in the community.
A former player, the late Roberto ‘Robbie’ McKinney, was also recognised for his contribution as he transferred his skills to the sidelines as a coach as well. He would have coached quite a few Fox Hill teams in the New Providence Basketball Association where they won a few titles before he passed away in 2005 at the age of 33.
And talking about the deceased, two former great players Reuben ‘Cheetah’ Knowles, whom many believed had the potential to play in the NBA, and Reginald ‘Reggie or Bobby Bird’ Demeritte, who scored 75 points in a game all by himself, were also honoured for their success as premier basketball players, not just in Fox Hill but in the NPBA during the heydays of the teams that represented the community. While Knowles passed away in 2003, Demeritte died in June.
Wilmott would have been too young to have witnessed these two dynamic players in their prime, but I’m sure that the stories of their exploits on the court were well documented in his mind. These were just two of the players, as Taylor mentioned throughout his commentary, with some of the rich history that came out of Fox Hill.
I think I would have to concur with Taylor when he mentioned that Fox Hill has probably produced more talent on the local level than any other community. There were several who went on to excel at both the national and international level and were fortunate to take their talent to the collegiate ranks as well.
The Hooping by the Park was just a prime example of displaying some of that talent. I’m sure as Wilmott and his community start planning for next year’s event, you will see more and more of that talent, not just in those who participate, but others who will get to be recognised in the legacy that exists in Fox Hill.
Congrats to Wilmott, Member of Parliament for Fox Hill, Shonel Ferguson and the Fox Hill Festival Committee, headed by Maurice Tynes, for a job well done. It’s a pity that the ladies didn’t come out and participate as the area is known for producing some outstanding female players as well.
Today, I wish to offer my condolences to the family of the late Mavis Whymns, 64. If anyone can remember, Whymns was a prominent female softball pitcher in the New Providence Softball Association, having played for the Bahamian Kitchen, managed by the late Colin ‘Troppy’ Knowles.
Big in structure, Whymns was fearless in her delivery of the ball and although the windmill wasn’t a part of the repertoire of pitchers during her heyday, she got the job done with the lob. She will be missed.
May her soul rest in peace.