Premier League swingman Zachary Cave (centre) will lead the charge for the defending champion Cavaliers. (FILE)
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It’s starting to get crowded at the top of junior basketball. Mr H Invest Station Hill Cavaliers will have their work cut out for them next week as they look to defend their NexGen Under-23 basketball title against rising powers Gatorade Pinelands Future and Burger King Clapham Bulls at the Barbados Community College.
It serves as the major storyline heading into the tournament’s second edition that features an extremely loaded field with vastly improved teams Bajan 246 President Garrett’s XI, Courts Big Blue Machine and A2Z Custom Wear Challengers.
But most of the attention will be focused on the true title contenders following an offseason that saw Station Hill weakened by the departures of Premier League players Joel Hunte, Nikolai Burton, Stephan Ottley and Jamario Clarke.
Top flight point guard Anand Joseph-Thorne and swingman Zachary Cave, last season’s finals MVP, remain as the Cavs’ star holdovers but they will have to shoulder an even bigger workload against a more mature Pinelands side.
Reigning tournament MVP Derion Hurley leads that star-studded cast, which includes younger brother Deroni and fellow Premier League youngsters Kiserian Adams, Rasheed Maynard, Rachad Hall and Tehron King.
Clapham’s roster also reads like that of a team in the top flight, as overseas-based point guard Andrew Ifill, Shaquan Newton, Shaquan Carrington, Brandon Hope, Amal Smith, Akindele Licorish, Avery Bryan and Darren Nurse have all benefited from another year in the Premier League.
Even the President’s XI – named in the honour of deceased BABA head Derrick Garrett – features a number of top flight players like Justin Pile, Jonathan Dottin, Theo Greenidge, Khamal Boyce, Dominic Jervis and Jared Grant.
And every game will count in this season’s tournament considering the top two teams from the round robin format are set to advance straight to the finals while the next two squads will play a third-place game.
Every game won is worth four points and teams will be awarded an additional point for winning any one of the four quarters played in a contest.
The tournament starts on Thursday and continues on January 6, 7 and 11 before concluding with the January 13 grand finale. (JM)