Stakeholders crave support for Elite 1 basketball is very important for us because one of the things that it does is to expose our top local players to a professional environment.

Wayne Dawkins, founder of the Elite 1 Caribbean Basketball League, says the competition forms a huge part of the development of sport in Jamaica, and, therefore, he is urging corporate entities to support the competition.

The championship, which began two weeks ago, comprises four teams: the Elite Horizon, Elite Waves, Elite Rivers and Elite Storm.

Dawkins told the Jamaica Observer that 50 per cent of the players on each team are Jamaicans, while the others are drawn from the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Nigeria.

He said the league provides a massive opportunity for local players to compete against top-quality opponents from across the world.

"The level of players that we have brought in are guys that have played in the NBA [National Basketball Association] G League in the United States, guys that have played professionally in Europe and in South America," said Dawkins.

"These are high-playing players, dunking the ball, everything that you see on TV these guys have it and the fans love it because it is not no bully ball where you got 35 or 45 year olds that have passed their prime out there trying to play ball and I am not trying to knock other leagues, but I am just saying that these are young guys who can run and jump," he said.

"The league is half North American because half the players are local players that we have been training and developing for the past year and then you have the international players from America and Canada that we have brought in," Dawkins said.

He said they are yet to secure a main sponsor for the championship.

"We don't have any corporate support and I think that corporate Jamaica and the business community doesn't really understand how to really appreciate something that is in its early stages," said Dawkins.

"They want something that is ready done because they want the gold medal and then they will come on board. The rest of the world sees it and the rest of the world is very excited about it and so we need some corporate sponsors because this is a win-win for everybody," he said.

Paulton Gordon, president of the Jamaica Basketball Association (JaBA), said his administration is in full support of the league.

"It is very important for us because one of the things that it does is to expose our top local players to a professional environment, so it keeps them active and it allows them to aspire to become better players," said Gordon.

"As they are playing against the 24 players from overseas, it helps them to benchmark where they are in terms of what they need to do more to get to the next level.

"We have engaged some of the local stakeholders to support what they are doing. I know the Ministry [of Sports] is looking at it, I know that they have engaged IPL [Independence Park Limited], SDF [Social Development Foundation] and some of the stakeholders who want to see basketball at another level," Gordon said.

He added: "We are playing basketball at all levels from the grass-roots level to the elite and this provides this platform for our young men to showcase their skills among international players and because it is livestream they are being seen by other persons including scouts from all over the world."

BY ROBERT BAILEY Staff reporter

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