CARACAS, Venezuela — National basketball player Adrian Uter could have been branded a typical youngster while growing up in Jamaica.
He was born in the parish of Manchester before his family moved to the capital Kingston, and though admittedly not particularly fond of sports as a youth, he remembers playing a bit of football and a variety of children's games.
"I saw all my family playing soccer so I used to play a little soccer. I wasn't really big into sports back then," Uter said, while relating much of his childhood to the Jamaica Observer here at the team hotel.
"I was just a regular kid in Jamaica playing marbles and what's the game you throw the box and thing?"
His usually sombre demeanour briefly transferred to one of amused thought, and within a fraction of a moment later his fresh 28-year-old memory chipped into gear.
"Yea, dandy shandy! That's it, right?" "Those are the little things that I remember, but football, yes football, was the main thing we played," he said as he leaned his six-foot six-inch frame sideways.
So where did basketball fit in? Well he and his family migrated to the United States when he was 10, and by age 15 he was playing structured basketball games. He later received tertiary education in Long Island, New York, where he further honed his craft.
"I just started playing organised basketball when I was 15-years-old so I had a late start in basketball," he said.
Fast-forward several years and the former 'dandy shandy' player is now a hardened professional residing in Miami, Florida.
He is a key cog in the Jamaica team participating in the 2013 FIBA Americas Basketball Championship.
Uter, a muscular wall of heart and competitive spirit, was arguably Jamaica's best player in the 64-85 defeat to Canada in the tournament opener on Friday. He had 14 points, six rebounds and three assists.
He was less effective offensively against Uruguay, a day later, when the Jamrockerz excruciatingly lost in the closing seconds by two points. But the Italy-bound forward's grit was still on show while hauling down eight rebounds.
Despite his time away from the island, he insists that his urge to win makes him motivated to do well in the national colours.
"I'm 28 now and this summer was my first time back in Jamaica. In 18 years I was gone and everything looks brand new and different to me.
"It's a small island, poverty is everywhere and morals may be down, so are we trying to uplift the people and give them something to cheer about. I always give 100 per cent when I'm on the court. At the end of the day I'm all about winning. Just to get the opportunity to represent my country was a no-brainer.
"I already signed my contract to play in Italy this season, so it's not like I'm looking to get exposure to play for a [professional] team. I've been a playing professional coming into my seventh year and the last five years I've been in Isreal. I just had a real good season there and I made the all-Isreal first five team," he reasoned.
Despite the presence of he and others of his ilk in the squad, the Jamaicans have played below their potential. They have a mountainous task of progressing from the first round, with the remaining Group A games coming against perennial regional heavyweights Puerto Rico and Brazil today and tomorrow, respectively.
Uter said the team is still gelling and hinted at the importance of remaining focused and keeping the core unit together.
"It's my first time playing for the Jamaica national team, so we got all these new guys — for me they are all new guys — so I just have to get familiar with everybody's game.
"We just need to make sure we don't make the same mistakes. We are very athletic, we are quick and we just have to use our strength and not fall into the same traps.
"In time, the more games we play together, the more comfortable we get together [and] I feel we could do big things. I think we could still surprise a lot of people if we stay focused and not give up," he said.