Lester Vaughan to miss tourney
Lester Vaughan had hope for another title run. Just not the opportunity.
Prolific swingman Brandon Hope and fellow national hopeful Brett Williams won’t be getting that chance to avenge last year’s heartache after title favourites Lester Vaughan were a last-second scrap from this season’s Co-operators General Insurance Under-16 Basketball Tournament.
It’s the stunning twist ahead of today’s season-opener, which was set to feature the Cane Garden contenders against Final Four hopefuls Queen’s College.
Physical education teacher Sam Skeete confirmed his school’s pulling out but declined to give a reason for withdrawing the pre-season favourites.
They’re just the third perennial powerhouses not to be contesting this year’s tournament following the decisions of former champs St Michael and St Leonard’s to sit out the competition.
But unlike their fellow absentee schools, Lester Vaughan had the manpower to field a certain contender, with Hope and Williams providing the nucleus of a squad that was expected to go all the way.
The upshot not only robs the competition of one of its star attractions, but means Williams and Hope – two certainties to make the final cut for this year’s national under-16 team – will be sitting out their final year of eligibility.
“It is really disappointing because this tournament would’ve given them a chance to get some games under their belt before going away on tour,” said national junior head coach Zahir Motara.
“This wouldn’t exactly setback their development because there would be some blowout and uncompetitive games in school league but it would’ve been nice to get them some court time.”
Just as demoralizing is the fact that the two will never get to make up for last season’s debacle, where Lester Vaughan fell agonisingly short of the championship game despite rattling off an impressive 9-1 regular season.
Entering the Final Four as heavy favourites, the Cane Garden side was stunned by eventual losing finalists St Leonard’s in a shocking 15-point drubbing.
And Hope and Williams were looking forward to finish the job they started, with a year more experience under their belt.
In Lester Vaughan’s absence, one-time kings Harrison College start as favourites, having their own dynamic duo to boast of in talented guards Nicholai Burton and Joel Hunte.
Perennial powers Garrison – featuring elite guard Andrew Ifill – will also be chomping at the bit in a ten-team competition that is set to witness the long-awaited return of Deighton Griffith and St James.
Defending champs Foundation open their title defence tomorrow with a home fixture against the promising Lodge, while Garrison and Harrison College also start the season at home with contests against 2011 Final Four team Ellerslie and Alexandra respectively.