By Matthew Woolford
It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen in sports, and it took place during Week 2 of the Fiesta Female Basketball League (FFBL) on January 22, 2023, at the Woodbrook Youth Facility.
Carrissa Ramdial had just driven to the basket, missed the shot, and tumbled out of bounds on the play. Instead of starting the fast break the other way, opposing point guard Mya-Leanna Raymond ran to see if Carrissa was okay and was the first to help her to her feet. After seeing this, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the future of female basketball in Trinidad and Tobago was in good hands.
Carrissa, with her commitment; Mya, with her humility, and six teams averaging seven young women each, for seven weeks had shown that they had the grit and determination to play basketball the right way.
This is from an article entitled ‘Playing the Right Way with Larry Brown’, published by ESPN.com on November 2, 2005: “He learned the game from the guys who learned from the guys who learned from Dr James Naismith who invented the game. Literally. ‘This guy has possibly the finest basketball pedigree of any coach alive,’ explains team radio broadcaster Tom McGinnis. Brown has spent a lifetime as a player and a coach watching, listening, and learning, as best he can, about how to win games. And he has learned a lot…
Coach Brown’s magic words are simple: Play the Right Way.
He explains it easily, in the low, thoughtful tones that make him such an effective NBA teacher. ‘It’s a team game,’ he points out.
‘The object is to make your teammates better. To make sacrifices. To make the extra pass. Think about defending. Maybe sacrifice yourself a little bit for somebody else.’
The way Brown talks about it, it’s clear that Playing the Right Way is more than a way to win basketball games. It’s a way of life.”
And this is how ‘Team Spirit’ is defined on the Pyramid of Success by Coach John Wooden: “This block of the Pyramid addresses a most important characteristic: selflessness which is the opposite of selfishness. I mean by this that you are eager to sacrifice personal glory or gain for the greater good, namely, the welfare and success of your organization, your team, your group.
For me it meant I was constantly searching for that player who would make our team ‘great’ rather than a someone who was just a ‘great player’. There is a big difference and that difference is what constitutes Team Spirit.
I did not want a person on our team who was reluctant to sacrifice for the good of the team. I prized the individual who was eager to sacrifice for our common good.”
For my money, Carrissa Ramdial and Mya-Leanna Raymond were not only the two best players in the tournament; they were also the two best leaders. They controlled the pace and flow of the game for their respective teams, instilled trust in their teammates and effectively made them better.
One noticeable example of such growth, at least to me, was the constantly improving play of Maikea Bramble throughout the tournament.
In week 1, she started on the bench, by week 2, she had set a backcourt screen to ‘free up’ Mya that shook the whole of the Woodbrook Youth Facility. By the Championship Game, she was the perfect complement around the basket to Mya’s playmaking on the perimeter.
Another noticeable example of this growth, at least to me, was the constantly improving play of Azaria Rivers, whose ball-handling and decision-making gave the ‘Draymond Green-type’ support to Carrissa’s ‘Steph Curry-like’ off-ball movement and outside shooting.
Both Carrissa and Mya represented Trinidad and Tobago at the Centrobasket Under-17 Women’s Qualifiers, July 27–31, 2022, in Nicaragua where we finished with one win and four losses against stiff competition.
In five games played, Carrissa Ramdial averaged 12.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists. Over the same stretch, Mya-Leanna Raymond averaged 4.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists.
These statistics (extracted from www.fiba.basketball) are even more impressive considering that Trinidad and Tobago only had eight players on its roster compared to 12 from other countries.
The FFBL 2023 built on this momentum, and from what I saw, was successful in developing the physical, mental, and professional acumen of our young players.
In the League Championship Game, Mya’s Vipers triumphed over Carrissa’s Star, but I believe that they both helped to lift local female basketball to a higher ground.
Should they stick together, I see no reason why Trinidad and Tobago cannot have a formidable women’s basketball team for years to come.