St Lucia Basketball: A Culture to Nurture

St Lucia Basketball
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As the buzzer sounded last Saturday afternoon, the St Lucia 3×3 Basketball team’s participation at the inaugural Caribbean Games in Guadeloupe, came to an end. The score of that final game was 3-18 to Guyana, who used athleticism and stifling defence to their advantage. Having already suffered defeat in its previous two games; 4-16 against Cuba, and 14-16 to the home country; our national team’s third loss sadly meant elimination.  

Coach Gregory Griffith, Technical Director of St Lucia Basketball

Speaking on the team’s tournament performance was the Technical Director of St Lucia basketball, Coach Gregory Griffith, more commonly known as Coach Griff.  

“We have work to do in order to be able to compete on that level.”  

Despite not having the results they would have wanted in the tournament; Coach Griff spoke effusively about the potential of the basketball team. “I think effort-wise, no team worked as hard as we did; before we got here and when we had the opportunity to compete. We had a chance to win a game but didn’t close it out; all that comes from experience.” 

A Close Game 2

Indeed, that Lucian fighting spirit showed in Game 2, in one of the most thrilling games of the tournament. After its first game blowout loss, the team rallied, corrected its errors and played much better against Guadeloupe. Kymani Charles, Cletuson Leon, Sidney Didier and Wezlee Joseph, the members of the four-man St Lucia team, bossed it, scoring the first basket, and outscoring Guadeloupe almost the entire game.  

Everyone on the team was showcasing their best basketball. At one point, Didier even threw down a slam dunk over his defender; putting him on a poster! Victory was tantalisingly within reach.  

Video of Sidney Didier’s amazing slam dunk

But it wasn’t to be. After a scoring drought, with just about 90 seconds on the clock, the lead was lost via a Guadeloupe free-throw. Unfortunately, St Lucia was unable to regain the lead and time ran out.  

Sadly, the close Game 2 defeat would impact the performance in the third, as the scoring drought continued and things snowballed, with the team conceding the most points of all their games.  

Leon confirmed as much to us in a post tournament interview: “The game before last was supposed to be a win, which we let go of, and that hurt us. We weren’t mentally prepared for the next game. We clearly did not play well.” 

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Positive Takeaways

But the silver lining here, is St Lucia Basketball’s determination to use the tournament as a stepping stone for the sport’s growth on island. Coach Griff expressed hope that post tournament, the team can put its best foot forward. “The fact that we see the opportunity is right there in front of us and that we can attain these goals, motivates us to go back home and work on our craft. At this point it’s about taking notes from the experience.” Experience that Cletuson Leon has found invaluable.  

Cletuson Leon with the ball, #13 in white

“I saw a development in my game and this was one of the best tournaments I’ve played for the country. My [basketball] IQ improved and I was more court aware in certain situations.” 

“It means a lot to represent my country” Leon told our website. “Not many get to do it, so I’m always proud to do it!” 

Leon also commented on the importance of playing time in order to compete as best as possible as a team. “I was prepared, we were well trained; just didn’t play enough games together to gel properly as a team.” 

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In addition to providing players sufficient opportunities to gel, coaches around the island are also focused on fixing the issue of an underdeveloped skill level island wide; a task which although not impossible, does require hard work and dedication on the part of the players. 

We all know the saying, “hard work pays off,” but hard work comes with consistency. Court training, as well as physical training, needs to be incorporated into training programs in order to compete at a high level. Coach Griff agrees. 

To sweat or not to sweat?

With the tournament over, Coach Griff’s focus now is squarely on improving basketball in Saint Lucia. He stressed that a lot of emphasis has to be placed on skill development and basketball IQ as the skill level of our players is generally subpar. A flaw we’ve for too long ignored.

Indeed, many of our players lack the basic fundamental skills, which could be due to an all too common “sweat culture” in St Lucia. A culture that is unfortunately a huge impediment to the development of basketball in the country. Often times, players step on the court to “sweat” and have no plan to, or knowledge on, how to get better. Which begs the question; is it about sweating or getting better? 

St Lucia’s basketball director addressed his issues with sweat culture. “If we train, we’re gonna sweat”, said Coach Griff, “so I’d much rather be more productive with our time.” 

“It’s about being taught the right things, at the right time.” 

St Lucia Basketball
Coach Griff (centre) and SLBF executives at a youth basketball camp

Griff went on: “Every player now is required to dribble, pass and shoot. I’m not saying that everyone has to be able to shoot threes. Neither am I saying everybody has to have a great crossover. Everybody doesn’t have to be able to do no-look passes. It’s just that you have to be proficient in all those areas.”  

As for the other side of the game, “defensively, we need to be more technically sound.” Griff stated – “Just the technical details of the sport; that’s where we’re lacking.” 

“All these things we kind of overlook and the only way it will happen is if we’re teaching it.” 

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Culture Shift

That training in turn will lead to improved performances at tournaments like 3×3 basketball at the Caribbean Games.  

And the importance of playing in such tournaments is absolutely vital, as it provides more experience to our players. Not only is it a tool to elevate our level of game and an opportunity to test ourselves against some of the best players in different countries, but playing in tournaments, as Coach Griff put it, “sets the tone that we want to participate in any event that we get to play on a high level. The more we compete, the more opportunities we have to medal.”  

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With the continued support from the Ministry of Sports, St Lucia Olympic Committee, the St Lucia Basketball Federation executives like Leslie, Velica, Marlene, Orlan, Shauna and Scady, kind sponsors and of course the St Lucian people, St Lucia basketball will be able to push the level of basketball in the Caribbean and elsewhere. 

“I feel the energy and I’m feeling the culture change on the island” – Coach Griff 

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2 thoughts on “St Lucia Basketball: A Culture to Nurture

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