By Sonia Rodney
After watching the 1953 movie ‘The Harlem Globetrotters’, a basketball craze hit the colony of British Guiana.
Friends Clairmonte Taitt, Ken Corsbie, Laurence Taitt, Stanley Greaves et al formed the Ravens Basketball club.
As far as one can remember, the first national team leaving these shores left for Paramaribo, Suriname via the Atkinson Airbase in July of 1957.
The team was led by Corsbie, who was given the alias “Mr. Basketball.”
Although the team lost all of its matches, the Land of Many Waters was not disgraced.
The first female basketball team to depart British Guiana for foreign soil was Ravens Basketball Club.
They departed in September of 1957 for Nickerie, Suriname.
The Ravens female team also visited Trinidad and Tobago in 1960 and, although the team lost all of its matches, Faye Spooner covered herself in glory emerging as the most outstanding player.
Ravens’ dominance of local female basketball lasted probably until the early 1970s when the Panthers became the most dominant female basketball team in the country.
In October of 1978, the Panthers lost a very competitive series to the Achilles female side from Trinidad.
The matches were contested at the then National Sports Hall and the outstanding players for Panthers were Avril Edmondson and Patricia Waterman.
The Panthers also had a successful tour of Trinidad and Tobago in 1980 as the game blossomed.
Although Guyana hosted the first organized Caricom Basketball Championship in August of 1981, only male players participated at those championships with Jamaica emerging as champions.
Trinidad and Tobago took the silver and Guyana the bronze.
The first female national team to participate at the Caribbean Basketball Championships the 1986 team at the championships held in Trinidad and Tobago.
Guyana had a disastrous entry losing all of the matches.
They were also winless at the 1988 championships hosted here in Guyana at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall with the only spark being the dazzling play of Deon Bristol.
The next time Guyana participated at the Caricom Championship was in 1994 again, at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall where Guyana’s performance was much better than in 1986 and 1988.
Boosted by several overseas-based players, the 1995 team to the Caribbean championships in The Bahamas looked ominous.
They, however, failed to bring home the bacon although their play was a clear indication of things to come.
Finally, history was created in June of 1996 when Guyana, under the captaincy of Karen Abrams, won the coveted female Caricom basketball title defeating Jamaica 67-55 in the final at the Jean Pierre Sports Complex in Trinidad.
They were led by a basketballer with football roots overseas-based Urani ‘Pepe’ Browne whose father Clyde ‘farmer’ Browne was a former national footballer.
Browne top scored with 22 points while Melanie Cromwell and Roschelle Browne, Urani’s sister lent admirable support with 13 points each.
Current president of the Guyana Women’s Basketball Association (GWBA) Michaela Burnett, was also a member of that team.
Burnette’s great defensive plays were instrumental in the team’s triumph. Sadly it has been the female team’s only triumph at the regional level.
Browne was drafted to the WNBA in 2000 to play for the Charlotte Sting. She became the second basketball player from Duke University to ever be drafted.After winning the 1996 Caricom title, Guyana automatically qualified for the Central American Champion-ships in Honduras in May 1997. That was the first and only female national team to attend a Central American Cham-pionships. The Guyanese girls failed to defend their title at the next Caricom Championship in Belize losing in the semi finals. Things deteriorated so much that at the 2000 championships in Barbados the female team lost all of its matches.
Guyana missed the next three Caricom Basketball Championships, in 2002 (US Virgin Islands), 2004 (Cuba) and 2006 (Jamaica).
The last time the female national team participated at a Caribbean Basketball Championships was in August of 2007 in Puerto Rico.
Guyana was subsequently disqualified because the players could not produce documentation to support their status. Last year, it seemed as if female basketball was on resurgence.
A national female team visited Antigua in 2008 for the Gillian Brazier tournament where they lost to Antigua’s own Big Banana Lady in the final.
The team thrashed St. Kitts in the semi-finals with Nicola Jacobs leading the team with 15 points.
She was subsequently offered a scholarship to pursue a career in Business Administration.It has been 13 years since Karen Abrams’s female team crowned itself in glory.Should Guyana be awarded the championships it would be a fitting occasion for the government of Guyana and the Guyana Amateur Basketball Federation to honour the 1996 heroes who blazed a trail and won for themselves and their country the respect and adulation that comes with being the best.