Devin Daly, 17, dreams of one day playing in the U.S. National Basketball Association (NBA) for one of his favorite teams, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the 6-foot-3 swingman from St. John’s College (High School) in Belize City today began that possible journey by signing letters of intent to play.
Lake Superior State University, with a student population of 3,000, plays with similar schools from Michigan and Ohio, and associate schools in Indiana and Illinois in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC). It secured a playoff berth in the Division II tournament in 2009 (when a rival team, Findlay University, won the Division II championship with an undefeated season) but finished with a mediocre record last season.
According to Daly, he is comfortable at any of the three positions of guard, forward and center on the court, and believes that his most important skill is his “competitiveness”: “…it’s not physical, it’s an intangible that I portray…that’s what drives me.”
Daly, along with fellow SJC players Tariq and Kyle Middleton and Zachary Usher, formed part of the contingent of 15 from Belize that participated in the LeBron “King” James Classic Tournament managed by the American Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and held in the NBA superstar’s hometown of Akron, Ohio. That team won two of the four games it played and finished 16th of 99 teams participating.
But in addition to catching a Cleveland Cavaliers game and polishing their skills against some of the best American talent, the boys were introduced to the competitive world of basketball recruiting. According to Daly, this resulted in a voicemail on his cellular phone which he only heard when he came back to Belize after the tournament. It was from the coach of Lake Superior.
According to Bernie Tarr, the Belize Basketball Federation (BBF)’s technical director, the school had intended to check out other tournaments in the area, but the assistant coach for the team went to Akron and was impressed by Daly’s play, calling him a “diamond in the rough.” The school checked Daly out on its own recognizance and decided to sign him, Tarr told us, noting that several coaches from rival programs contacted him personally to try to head off the signing.
That signing took place in front of an appreciative audience of SJC students and the press this morning at Fordyce Memorial Chapel on the Landivar Campus.
Wearing his Lake Superior Lakers cap in the tradition of new recruits, a humble Daly, who also has a commendable academic record and told us he will major in marine biology, as he is interested in conservation and protection of natural resources, thanked his mother Jacqueline Graham, his schoolmates and teammates (he is a member of the Belize Bank Bulldogs junior team and the National U-17 team), as well as his coaches (among them Evan “Duck” Garnett, SJC athletic director; and Tremett Perriott, Matthew Smiling, Brads Neal and Roscoe Rhys), school officials (such as Jesuit Superior Fr. Jose Vega and headmistress Yolanda Gongora), and the rest of his family for their support.
He told us that he wants other young people out there to know that his success is the result of hard work and dedication, not only to athletics, but to academics as well, and that he will work just as hard off the court so that he has something to fall back on if basketball as a profession does not work out for him.
Daly joins a long line of Belizean talent to play in the U.S. collegiate system, from the great Clinton “Pulu” Lightburn in the 1970s to Nigel Miguel, Fred Garcia, Duck Garnett, Kirk Smith, Milton Palacio and most recently, Richard Troyer (cyclist and player for Utah Valley State in Division I).
According to Tarr, Belize’s talent is untapped and ready to attract the U.S. scouts hunting far afield.
That’s also good news for Belize in other areas, says Minister of State for Youth and Sports, Herman Longsworth, who says Belize needs the “exposure” of events like this as a catalyst for national development.
The Minister personally addressed the new recruit in speaking at today’s ceremony, asking him to “work hard and never forget where you come from; keep going.”
SJC President Jorge Espat said the school is committed to having its athletics program also serve as a learning opportunity for its all-male congregation of students.
As for Belize’s basketball future, the Federation is focused on the new generation of U-17 stars who, Tarr said, will form the basis of the National Senior Team in the near future.
Minister Longsworth says the Ministry is working on its plans for the dilapidated Belize City Center on Central American Boulevard and the Marion Jones Sports Complex, where a design is being completed for a temporary building to host basketball and volleyball events until a fulltime basketball venue in Belize City can be completed.
When that temporary facility is completed even the return of semi-pro or a potential professional league is on the table, says Tarr.
Story courtesy Amanadala