PATRICE RENEE HARRIS|
ST. THOMAS – If you ever need a lesson in determination and perseverance look no further than the UVI Men’s Buccaneers basketball team.
Despite the team’s losing streak in the 2014 league caused by injured players and an 8- man squad, the players and coaches decided not to let the record of losing prevent them from playing.
On any given week day players of the male basketball team, dressed in UVI Bucs jerseys, sweat pants and kicks, shuffle to practice at midday in packs of three or four, dribbling basketballs.
From a side court view, onlookers experience the sense of unity, pride and comradery as the team glides, stretches and shoots to the latest hip-hop and rap songs in their warm up sessions. Players hi- five, clap, scream and laugh emotionally as their hearts race to the bounce of the ball during their weekly-secluded practices.
The team’s overall dynamic erupts as they pelt across the court in sweat draped jerseys and kicks, assisting each other with injuries, push-ups and laps.
“I think the brotherhood is significant, if they don’t have that chemistry, trust and believe in each other’s shots, they won’t believe in each other’s ability to win,” said Franklin Hacams, director of basketball operations for the team.
From Monday to Friday, the players assemble at the Sports and Fitness Center from as early as 12:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. for their daily weekday practice.
“We are not at all deterred by our past. We are learning from our past. Our team’s motto is failure is a recipe for success,” said Hacams.
For 23- year- old Chicago native Ace Watkins, and 21- year- old California native Marco Ponce losing is not an option for the recruits who travelled thousands of miles to join the UVI Bucs Men’s basketball team from University of California in spring 2015.
With failure not an option Watkins and Ponce describe playing basketball and being full time students as ‘overwhelming’ and ‘challenging’.
The communication majors wake up every day with a packed agenda beginning with early morning conditional training at 5 a.m., three — four hour long practices at 12:30 p.m., a full day of classes, four hours disc jockeying at the school’s radio station, and study hall at 8 p.m.
“It is challenging, it is tough, the only way I get through it is with prayer,” said Watkins.
“We don’t go on the court thinking about failure, it is always about playing your best game,” said Ponce. “It is time consuming for me as I have a job on campus, have to get my homework done and play ball.”
Ponce and Watkins earned scholarships to play basketball at UVI and have to maintain at least a 2.5 GPA.
“Some people play the sport to earn a degree or make money, for me it is all about the dream- everyone wants to go pro or make it big,” Ponce said. “I didn’t even know about the Virgin Islands before I was recruited to come here.”
The team earned their first pre- season win, 77-61, in an exhibition game against the BVI National Basketball team at the Paradise Jam Tournament.
“This season we will be playing eight games, four at home and four away. We want as much of the community to come out and support our games and be as loud as possible,” said Hacams.
The UVI Men’s Bucaneers Basketball team is a member of the Inter-university Athletic League.