Friday, February 23, 2018

Six high school basketball teams will do battle in the inaugural Kevon Godfrey Memorial Invitational set for December 16.

The one-day event will be played at the Old Harbour High and Old Harbour Church of Christ basketball courts with the latter hosting the semi-finals and final.

Participating teams are placed in two groups of three; teams play each other twice with the top two advancing to the semi-finals.

Start time for the under-16 tournament is 8:30 am with Jamaica College, Old Harbour High and Knox College drawn together in Group 1, while in Group 2 Calabar, Dinthill Technical and Manchester High will compete for top honours at the Church of Christ court.

The tournament organizers have adopted the ‘old school format’ which uses two 14-minute halves and running time, meaning the game clock only stop for free throws and when making an inbound pass.

At the end of tournament, the winner will walk away with the main prize of a trophy, medals and laptop computer

The final is set to get underway at 5:30 pm under lights. Admission is free.

Chief organizer Ricardo Edwards says the tournament will benefit the players in many ways.

“As the name suggest the tournament is in honour of Kevon Godfrey, who was a very talented basketball player but became ill and unfortunately died a few months ago. Kevon was part of the Old Harbour High team that won the National Under-16 title a few years ago. He was only 12 years old at the time,” Edwards told Old Harbour News.

Edwards, the current coach at Old Harbour High, added: “The tournament is another outlet for more basketball to be played. It is also a precursor for the teams who are all in the quarter-finals in their respective zones of the national competition which is on a break now before resuming in January. So it will really prepare the teams when the competition resumes and I am expecting an improvement in the overall quality of play going forward from these teams.”

He said he’s grateful for the support from corporate Old Harbour particularly O-Jay Koolers and Benson’s Pharmacy, but would like to see more businesses come on board and support the initiative which will be an annual event.

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Old Harbour Under-16s clinched their ISSA Northern Conference best-of-three series 2-1 after beating York Castle 31-24 at GC Foster College yesterday.

Having lost the opening game 33-22, Old Harbour won game two with identical scores to level the series.

It was yet another close battle, but like in game two Old Harbour did enough in the series decider to see off their opponents without panicking and have joined their senior counterparts into the National Play-offs.

Rohan Hunter was again among the star performers with a game high 20 points, 18 rebounds and five steals, while teammate Kevon Godfrey supported with four points, 15 rebounds and seven steals.

Old Harbour were crowned 2013/14 National under-16 champions, however, coach Ricardo Edwards says his expectations are higher this season of the senior boys.

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For the 12th straight year Old Harbour High will play in both under-16 and under-19 Northern Conference finals of the ISSA Rural Area Basketball.

The teams, coached by Ricardo Edwards, extended their historic run after outclassing McGrath and Brimmer Vale in respective under-16 and under-19 semi-finals at GC Foster College last Friday.

Both junior and senior sides will play York Castle in the conference final at GC Foster College at a date to be announced in January 2016.

On Friday, Old Harbour were just too strong for the Linstead-based McGrath in under-16 action, as they romped to a 53-12 shutout.

Kevon Godfrey led all scorers with a game high 15 points and six steals. Godfrey’s teammate Joel Allwood had eight points and 12 rebounds, while Jordan Campbell registered six points and four rebounds in a very one-sided affair.

In senior’s action, Old Harbour received very little competition as they ran to a 66-23 win over St Mary’s Brimmer Vale.

Nicoloy Bailey and Rojay Hamilton demonstrated great all-round ability – the former banking 22 points, effecting five steals, 15 rebounds and eight block shots; while the latter recorded 20 points, had nine steals, seven rebounds and four assists.

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Old Harbour High completed the double over York Castle on Monday in the latest round of matches in the ISSA/Rural Area Northern Conference Basketball.

In low-scoring contest, the Under-16s were too strong against their St Ann counterparts, as the hosts won 20-9 at the Old Harbour Church of Christ Multi-purpose Court.

Kevon Godfrey topscored with eight points, in addition to a game high 13 rebounds, while effecting seven steals and two block shots. Godfrey’s teammate Rohan Hunter weighed in with six points, 13 rebounds and three block shots.

In senior boys action, the hosts brushed aside their Browns Town-based rival, winning 42-27.

Javell Redwood had yet another impressive all-round game. The giant 6’11” centre registered 15 points, 15 rebounds, seven block shots, three steals and one assist, while Robert Johnson supported him with nine points, had seven steals, one rebound and five assists to continue their team’s unbeaten run.

Old Harbour’s next game will be at home against McGrath High on November 16.

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Saturday, 18 July 2015 12:23

KFC roll out $1.5m for Star Search Camp

Restaurant of Jamaica through its KFC brand franchise, yesterday, announced a $1.5 million sponsorship for the annual KFC Star Search Camp to be held July 19-24, 2015 at the GC Foster College of Physical Education & Sport.

The camp, with KFC on board for the 15th straight year, caters for 120 of the best young basketball players across Jamaica annually both male and female between 13-21 years old.

Over the 15 years of existence the camp has produced outstanding players some of whom have gone on to colleges in the United States of America and play in the world’s premier basketball competition the NBA league. Some of the most noted Jamaicans who are products of the KFC Start Search Camp are Samardo Samuels, Jerome Jordan and Mugabe Thomas.

Over the years several students from Old Harbour High took part in the yearly event including Jason Francis and Joel Bailey. And several current players from the school are expected to participate in the camp.

KFC and Jamaica Basketball Association (JABA, as part of this year’s celebration, have included six youngsters from Norwood community of St. James, Majesty Gardens and Maxfield Park Children’s Home to participate in the camp as part of the camp outreach activities.

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At least one student has received an overseas basketball scholarship to the United States of America, while another is set to follow suit pending a two-week trial in the summer.

The two are Alton Lynch, 15, and 17-year-old giant Javell Redwood, both of Old Harbour High School.

Lynch, a six-foot six-inch forward, will leave in the summer for Redemption Christian Academy in Massachusetts after he was awarded a scholarship by the institution, where he’ll be reunited with former schoolmates Joel Bailey and Willesley Butler.

Redwood, a towering centre, who stands at an impressive six feet, 11 inches tall, will need to prove his mettle however, during a tryout at the academy’s Boston base that will run “for at least two weeks,” said Pastor Ricardo Edwards, coach of the Old Harbour High basketball team.

The pending departures of Lynch and possibly Redwood will make it five students from Old Harbour High to receive basketball scholarships from US institutions in the last seven months.

“The programme in Old Harbour is growing basketball-wise and I would like corporate Jamaica, moreso those in Old Harbour to come and invest in these youngsters because a part of them is going forward and it will be nice for them to be part of it. So I’m appealing to them to come and support, even if you can’t give financially, come on board and be a mentor,” said Edwards.

Last November Bailey, Butler and Junior Graham left Jamaica for the US on basketball scholarships with the latter going to Long Island Lutheran Middle and High School in New York.

Since arriving in the States, the trio has been doing “extremely well” Edwards informed Old Harbour News.

In providing an update on the trio, Edwards said: “Junior Graham is actually on the honour role of Lutheran Christian School in Long Island. Joel Bailey and Willesley Butler: They are dominating in Boston, being featured in magazines.

“It speaks volumes to the programme here because they just left here in November. The programme doesn’t stress sport alone, it also stresses academics and the academic is a key factor of our basketball programme.”

Lynch and Redwood will immediately leave at the end of the Jamaica academic school year.

Coach Edwards has commended Jamaican-born Michael Williams who has been instrumental in securing all scholarships so far.

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Professional athlete Jason Francis conducted a basketball training session at his alma mater on May 26 during his first visit in seven years to his homeland Jamaica.

Francis, now 29 years old, left Old Harbour High more than a decade ago on a basketball scholarship but the talented athlete has also added American Football to his resume.

His return to Old Harbour was a pleasant surprise to many, to especially the 32 mostly boys and girls who participated in the almost two-hour long session interspersed with media interviews.

Accompanied by his wife 26-year-old DR Congo-born Chanel Modiri Mokango, Francis conducted an exercise that was lively, entertaining and informative.

“When I was going to school and playing basketball it was a way for me to just get away from everything else around me. I use to have a lot of friends who would get into wrongdoings, he told Old Harbour News afterwards. “Basketball was my hobby and a way out for me, so I know that this is an avenue for the younger kids who would rather do this than other stuffs. So if I can come back and contribute to that process then I’m going to do that.”

“There’s a lot of kids here who have potential. If they continue to work hard, stay in school, on the floor, build their conditioning, they’re gonna be good,” added the six-foot nine-inch centre, who has given a commitment to assist the school.

“I have been communicating with the coach… I already have an order in for like 15 balls, new jerseys and stuff. I’m gonna work on some shoes, try get these rims change, probably to glass backboard, but I’m prepared to do it, so I’m gonna do it.”

Mokango, a 6’ 5” forward who recently completed her first season in the Spanish Pro League after stints in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), agreed with her husband.

“Yes, there are some good talents,” said Mokango, who noted that the experience reminded her of when she was a kid in the DR Congo. “But like Jason told them they need to work hard. If you love the sport you need to put everything into it if they want to go to the next level.”

Pastor Ricardo Edwards, who is the head coach of the Old Harbour High basketball team, played an important role in Francis’ early development. And even when Francis went to the United States of America, the two remained in constant dialogue.

Like a father seeing his son return home, so it was for Edwards, who beamed with pride throughout.

“I am elated that I could have sat down and watched a person who has gone through the system coming to give back in terms of knowledge and also physically. I felt elated that people can come and sow their time into young lives and it speaks volumes. Now these youngsters will leave with a sense of inspiration,” said Edwards.

Indeed, every athlete who had the privilege to spend time on the court with Francis and his partner was awe-struck by the one they have heard so much about but were meeting for the first time in the flesh.

“It means a lot,” said Rojay Hamilton a basketball student at the school, “because he took the time out of his vacation to show us some things that will help us up our game so we can be much better and I’m really thankful. It was a great training session and he showed us our faults and told us how we can correct them to make us better.”

“I’m very excited and it’s a great privilege that I get to meet him. I learned a lot,” added female participant Hanna-Kay Lyttle, who has ambitions of playing the sport professionally. “His wife told me that if I want to force someone to the left then I need to gather myself to the right. They told me if I want improve then I need to practice hard and train even when I’m at home… Get more relax and comfortable until I conquer my game.”

For Francis though, he had to conquer more than just his game. In 2009 he had to do surgery on his left knee. The injury was a devastating blow for him both mentally and physically, as it came at a time when he just graduated from the University of Rhode Island and the prospect of playing in the National Basketball Association (NBA) was at the forefront of his mind. However, the surgery caused him to miss the 2009 NBA Draft.

“My knee cap was shifting… and it slowed me down a lot,” he recounted the experience to Old Harbour News. “It took me about two years before I could literally play basketball again. My knee was so weak I have to do a lot rehabilitation.”

Francis’ tough upbringing in the district of Spring Village in Jamaica seemingly had prepared him well enough, however, for circumstances like this. A dream shot at playing in the NBA had gone by now, and so the Rhode Island resident shifted his focus to American Football.

“I play semi-pro for a team in Rhode Island. I did great. Obviously there was nobody out there as big as I am. After a game the guys from the other team would come up to me and say ‘yo, you are as big as hell’,” he said with a wry smile.

He’d never tried playing American Football before not even when he was living in Jamaica, where rugby is a recognised sport, albeit in a minute manner.

“It’s a sport (American Football) that I’ve always watched and would say to myself that ‘if they can do it then I can do it’,” he said.

“I’m gonna go back to play when I get back overseas. The team is in training right now. Right now football season is about to start and when football season ends in November, basketball season start after that.”

But his true love lies with basketball. Now a starting member for Providence Sky Chiefs in the American Basketball Association (ABA) – a second tier pro-league to the NBA – he tasted success in basketball for the first time in a very long while. Francis helped the Sky Chiefs, the first pro-basketball team in Rhode Island for 70 years, to win the Benrus Pro Basketball Championship as well as the ABA East Regional Championship.

“We did big things. Nobody expected us to do that well and we brought home two trophies in our first season,” he proudly stated.

“I don’t pay attention to that,” he said when asked about his personal performance, “because a lot of things people do in basketball doesn’t show up on the stats sheet. If I’m not scoring points nobody can come in my lane and make any simple lay-ups.”

On October 15 this year, Francis will celebrate his 30th birthday. It’s a significant number for many professional athletes as usually it’s the start of their descent to retirement. But he isn’t looking towards watching from the fence just yet.

Armed with a degree in criminal justice, he said: “I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I’ve got some offers from overseas, but I like the ABA because it’s literally in my backyard. I can wake up and drive to practice, drive to games, so it’s the comfort zone to me. So if I’m going to get pay and is comfortable close to home then I’m going to do that.

“As long as me knees allow me to. I’m not gonna put a timeline on when I stop play. I know guys who play until they’re 42, 43, so as long as I can do it I’m gonna do it. It’s something that I love doing and I can’t imagine getting up one day and not playing. I’m just gonna keep on playing until I can’t do it anymore.”

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