Ahh, the Cayman Islands. Unspoiled beaches, scuba diving, deep sea fishing and duty-free shopping come to mind.
Women's basketball may not make your list.
Redver Ebanks is the women's national basketball coach for the Cayman Islands. He has 19 players in Rock Hill this weekend. They are participating in a basketball camp at Winthrop.
Ebanks, known as "Coach Red" by his players, has been bringing his girls to camps in the states for several years. He has led trips to Raleigh, where they play at N.C. State, Duke and North Carolina. They have also been to Florida International in Miami.
Ebanks grew up playing basketball on the islands. He went to Florida International for college. He didn't play basketball in college, but returned to the Caymans and worked as an assistant for the man who coached him as a youngster. After a couple of years as an assistant, Ebanks was named women's national basketball coach.
While at FIU, he formed a connection with Winthrop assistant coach Laquanda Dawkins. Dawkins was an assistant at FIU at the time. That connection led to this week's trip from the tiny island nation of some 50,000 people to Rock Hill.
Ebanks got sponsorships from several island businesses and the girls held bake sales to raise the more than $12,000 needed to make the trip. Cassava cakes are a favorite on the islands and were a mainstay at the bake sales. He and several players were all smiles when describing the delicacies.
"I don't know anybody on the island that doesn't like it," 14-year-old Tamara Smith said. "Oh yeah, it's brown, soft and hot. Everybody eats it."
Tamara and her twin sister, Samara, are attending the camp together.
Ebanks coaches about 65 girls ranging from primary school age to high schoolers. Two years ag, one of his players was noticed by a small college at the Deep South Classic in Raleigh.
Cassianne Lawrence, a 5-11 guard/forward, recently finished her freshman year at King College in Bristol, Tenn.
That is what Ebanks is working toward. He said a lot of people won't look at the small schools like King College for athletics.
"I am going to find that small school and get my girls there," Ebanks said.
He hopes this will be the first of many trips for these girls.
"One of the reasons I started coaching was because of the limited opportunities for girls in sports," Ebanks said.
"I think all these girls have potential. Some will take different avenues, but most of them have some potential to continue playing basketball. I want them to be exposed to how the game is played."
Ebanks said one of his players told him she was being shown things he had already taught them.
"That's fine. That just re-enforces what I tell them," he said.
The Cayman Island girls' flight arrived in Charlotte on Thursday night. After a stop for dinner, they arrived on campus around midnight. Still, they awoke Friday morning ready to go.
Ebanks said they were anxious to get to camp. He and the three parent chaperones had no problems getting them organized in the morning and to camp on time. Just one glitch sent Ebanks to the Galleria Mall to find footwear for one of his players who didn't bring her basketball shoes.
Dawkins said Ebanks' girls were excited and eager to learn.
"He has some young ladies with raw talent. Red's goal is to get them to college. He just wants to give back," Dawkins said.
Shanice Ebanks, no relation to Coach Red, is a 13-year-old wing player. She said she had learned some new moves in the camp's first day.
"We learned to cheat and pop and how to shoot properly," she said.
Back home, the players practice three times a week after school. Ebanks holds the practices outdoors because the indoor gym was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.
They practice in the heat of the afternoon sun because the island culture, and the girls' parents, would frown on them being out late at night, Ebanks said.
"So the sun may be coming down at 87 degrees, but the heat coming up from the asphalt on the courts feels like 112. So it is a tradeoff. We have sun, beaches and water, but we don't have facilities like this," Ebanks said with an arm panning the vastness of the Winthrop Coliseum.
"Our soccer stadium doesn't hold this many people," Ebanks grinned.
Felicia Connor, a 12-year-old point guard, commented on the temperature of the Winthrop Coliseum. "It's definitely cooler," she said.
Winthrop women's basketball coach Bud Childers has more than half his team working the three-day shooting camp. He is no stranger to having international players on his floor. His roster includes Kathi Ryska from Germany and Yvonne van Daalen, who hails from the Netherlands. But he can still see that this is something special for Ebanks' group.
"It is absolutely amazing that a group of young ladies from the Caribbean wanted this kind of experience. I think we all win as coaches and players and campers when different cultures get together. Basketball bridges a lot of gaps," Childers said.