Basketball players on St. Croix can now enjoy shooting hoops at D.C. Canegeta Ballpark in Christiansted, thanks to the recently refurbished court that was unveiled Friday morning.
The Department of Tourism, along with the Department of Housing, Parks and Recreation, as well as Paradise Jam tournament organizer Basketball Travelers, Inc., met at 11:45 a.m. Friday at the park to rededicate the court to local players just in time for Paradise Jam, which starts next week.
The refurbished court now has brand new painted lines and thick plastic backboards with graphics sporting the Paradise Jam logos.
“Sports tourism is part of what we do here,” Assistant Tourism Commissioner Brad Nugent said. “Most of our top players earn their chops on local community courts, and it’s a strong tradition here in the Virgin Islands.”
Nels Hawkinson, who founded Basketball Travelers, Inc., was also at the rededication. He tied into Nugent’s speech and said that when he moved to the territory 18 years ago, he fell in love with the Virgin Islands after being treated so well by everyone – from the cab driver to the hotel concierge. Hawkinson said that he was impressed with how the locals treated tourists and wanted to continue that tradition with Paradise Jam.
“We’re so excited to be here on St. Croix – it’s the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam, and it’s not just specific to St. Thomas,” Hawkinson said. “The Department of Tourism has it right when they say ‘tourism is in all of us – we each have to be part of what tourism is.”
Twelve years ago, Basketball Travelers, Inc. began the first Paradise Jam in 2000, and Hawkinson said the process has taught him that basketball players get great by playing on local community courts.
“This is where it gets done, this is how you get better – on the hard floor,” he said. “If you wanna be a player you gotta be out here at six in the morning, you gotta be here when the lights come on. There’s no reason you can’t be a good basketball player, but it has to come from your heart and from within,” Hawkinson said.
“The government has done a great job in revolutionizing a lot of the courts,” Hawkinson continued.”I mean look at this – we’ve got glass backboards, we’ve got lights, we’ve got painted stuff, we’ve got collapsible rims. We got everything! So you can throw it down with two hands and it ain’t gonna hurt the backboard,” he said with excitement.
Hawkinson said that he began the tournament 12 years ago because of his love for the V.I. He stopped on a cruise ship years ago and wanted to bring the tournament to the territory to show his appreciation for the wonderful treatment he received while on vacation.
Nugent said he was grateful for Hawkinson’s dedication to basketball and to making the island a great sports tourism attraction.
“We encourage the public to take advantage of these activities which are a great benefit to our sports facilities and to our young sports fans” Nugent said.
The Tourism Department also announced that ten high school students from St. Croix were selected to travel to St. Thomas to volunteer at the Paradise Jam games. The Student Volunteer exchange is also sponsored by Basketball Travelers, Inc., the Department of Housing, Parks and Recreation and the Department of Tourism.
The U.S. Virgin Islands has been the home of the Paradise Jam event since its inception, offering men’s and women’s college basketball teams a chance for excellent early season competition in an exotic island setting.
The Paradise Jam men’s and women’s tournaments will take place on November 18-21 and November 24-26, respectively, at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center, St. Thomas campus.
For more information about the tournament, visit www.paradisejam.com.