Wednesday 22nd June, 2005


Sprott a stickler for success

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Albert Sprott (right) has the full attention of members of his basketball team just before a training session for the 2005 schools basketball season.

By Jovan Ravello

It is said that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. But for coach Albert Sprott and the basketball team at the International School of Port-of-Spain (ISPS), first impression never mattered.

Instead they were focused on a more long-term goal as the rest of the teams in the Schools Basketball League have now come to realise.

When Sprott, a coach since 1984, took charge of the school’s basketballers, he already had a penchant for winning.

Last year, ISPS’ season ended on a disappointing note as they were stopped by St Anthony’s College in the semi finals of the NGC/Express School’s Basketball League’s Under-17 division.

The mood at the school’s post-season banquet was sombre and the boys’ failure to advance to their first zonal final was the evening’s hot topic.

This, Sprott believes, was a major turning point for his team.

Sprott used St Anthony’s success as a yardstick to measure the success of his eight-year programme at the school, and ISPS, now tired of years of knocking on the door, began their preparation for 2005 with great enthusiasm.

When the season began on January 15, no one expected ISPS to be a factor in the title race in any of the five divisions.

ISPS proved them all wrong.

They won the North Zone Under-17 Big 4 on an unbeaten streak, only dropping points after they were forced to default a match in mid-season.

It is a situation which should be frightening since the players have been together for a longer period of time than other teams in the zone and Sprott noted that they should be together for two to three more years.

Although they have been competing in the Under-20 and Under-17 divisions, all members of the team, exclusive of Hobie Temple and Marc Mc Eachnie are under 15.

This means that National Under-17 MVP Nathan Wethington, a well received addition to the team, and captain Luther Wilson will be available to help the team defend its national titles next season.

Sprott said “It is nice to know you have a bunch that is enthusiastic about learning the game.”

The squad’s defenders stood out in their victorious season.

Sprott explained that scoring has never been a problem but that his players failed to stop their opponents at the court’s other end.

Sprott began his coaching career with the Servol Life Centre, (in his words) a good team that never peaked.

He soon found his groove with the Demerera Life All Stars in the North/Western Zone, going on an eight-year winning streak in that zone and a hat-trick of wins in the North Zone.

Sprott has also been in charge of his community team, Cosmic Sign Raptors, formerly TransAd Betham Stray Bullets, since 1986.

Raptors are currently defending their North Zone Second Division crown.

He coaches in an effort to show the other side of the Beetham area, to keep the youth away from the negatives and, most importantly because it is his passion.

Through ‘success’ with the Raptors, he hopes to win back the community and give his players a chance at a better life.

ISPS will travel to the Hoop Group High School Basketball Championships, which are to be hosted by Seaton Hall University, in New Jersey during the July-August school break.

So far, the community-based programme coached by Sprott, NFM assistant coach Jamal Duke, Morgan John and Rudolph King (among others) has done well to hone raw talent through an intense focus on the fundamentals.

In 2001 — the programme’s first year — former St Mary’s College star Kibwe Trim was awarded an athletic scholarship to Sacred Heart University and Jason Sharpe and Sherman Diaz of Fatima College and Tranquillity Government Secondary respectively were offered packages the following year.

Two years ago, Makandal Daaga received a partial scholarship to Underwood University, Missouri and last year, Persto Praesto Youth Camp’s Donny Lyons was awarded a scholarship to the Brooklyn Academy.

In 2003, Garvin Lewis was offered a scholarship by Bloomfield College but without achieving a SAT score, he was unable to succeed. This has effected a change and now the programme is all-inclusive tests with the SAT exam as one of its major focuses.

Sprott expressed great appreciation to ISPS principal Barney Lathan for his support.

He also thanked his "behind-the-scenes team" Ricardo and Donna Lue Shue, Gwendolyn Pope, who is in charge of the SAT aspect of the programme, Debbie Jacob and Stephanie Marfan.

Sprott, with characteristic frankness, revealed that his greatest wishes are to participate in a higher quality School’s Basketball League and that his fellow coaches band together, much like those in the ISPS programme, in order to effect growth in the sport.

In honour of the Under-17 team’s historic performance, ISPS was given a school holiday on May 20, as a symbol of the importance of their achievement.

And while most may have been enjoying their day off, more than likely the ISPS boys were on the gym floor working hard on their seemingly flawless game because, as Sprott says "they just don’t want to stop."




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