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By Arlington James

From the 1960s and well into the second decade of the 21st Century, Dominica's basketballers, like their counterparts elsewhere, have been entertaining spectators with their dribbling skills, shooting, cross-overs, fakes, tough defensive pressure on opponents, destabilizing three-pointers and, of course, some big blocks and deadly dunks.

But over the past 50 plus years of organised basketball in Dominica, several basketballers from all skill-levels have also entertained Dominican and overseas audiences with their voices, musical dexterity, acting skills or spectacular creations. Cultural and theatrical groups, musical bands, calypso oganisations, church choirs, pageantry etc., have all benefitted from the individual, non-basketball artistic contributions of members of our basketball fraternity.

Most of those players would not have "played basketball for Dominica", and only a few played at the highest level of our national league. But for sure, they all wowed, impressed and/or entertained audiences and crowds, both here and abroad, with their artistic, non-basketball talents. Four basketball teams, viz, Pros, Cardinals, Nationals and Green City – all teams of yesteryear or the recent past - seemed to have led in terms of the number of players from those teams who were also involved in Dominica's arts, entertainment, culture and church music.

So, ladies and gentlemen, let's have the Lights… Camera… Action, as the curtain rises on Dominica's Arts, Basketball and Culture. Let us, for a few moments, direct the spotlight and take a peek at some of these multi-talented basketballers from then and now who also contributed to Dominica's cultural development. They are presented below in alphabetical order, by first name:-

ADRIANA "ADDI" HENDERSON: "Addi", a 'Grand Bayrian', was a founder member of Pros Sisters, later renamed Madech Pros; they played in the national basketball league's Women Division.

However, in cultural circles, Adriana is better known as a stalwart in Dominica's traditional culture. A former member of La Jeune Étoile Chorale, Addi has led the Tradibelle Cultural Group since its inception in 1981. She dances Bèlè, Quadrille, Flirtation and other Jing-Ping Dances, and can also play the "ting-ting" (triangle), bèlè drum and shak-shak.

Adriana has received several awards, including the Meritorious Service Award, Golden Drum Award, Special Recognition Award, LIME Creole Lifetime Award and Student of Heroes Gallery Award, among others, for her outstanding contribution to the development of Dominica's traditional culture.

ANDERSON PAUL: Anderson plays basketball with Super Eagles from Paix Bouche. But in the world of entertainment, Paul is a Dance Hall and Bouyon artist, and is also a budding keyboardist.

ASHER THOMAS: Asher currently plays basketball with Super Eagles of Paix Bouche and is a shooting guard on that team. In local cultural circles, Asher is a former member of the powerful, versatile Paix Bouche Cultural Group.

Currently, and more importantly Asher, with his incredible voice and skills, is an R&B and Reggae artiste, a guitarist, and a song-writer. His biggest hits are 'Love Like This', 'Eternity', 'Common Ova', 'Heartbreak' and 'Closest Friend'; his music videos can be viewed on YouTube. Asher has also performed at Creole in The Park and the World Creole Music Festival, and his voice has taken him to perform in New York and Baltimore in the United States. Currently, he travels with a cruise ship as a performer.

ASHTON "WAKAS" LUGAY: Ashton played basketball as a guard with Caroni Comets in Division II. However, he is better known as a musician, song-writer, composer and actor. Wakas was a member of the Peoples' Action Theatre (PAT) of the 1970s, and was on the casts of such memorable productions as (Jesus Christ) Super Star and Folk Nativity. He later became responsible for sound and live music for other PAT productions.

Wakas was a member of the now defunct 'Earth', 'U-Jamah', 'Roof-Top Connection' and 'Second Chapter' bands that specialized in the Reggae genre. He is the W in the original WCK Band, and is now a member of the Original Bouyon Pioneers, putting his guitar skills and back-up vocals into good use.

Lugay also wrote and composed 'Syèl-o' that was included on a commemorative CD for the first World Creole Music Festival; 'Forestry is the Backbone of this Country' for the observance of the 50th Anniversary of the Forestry & Wildlife Division (1999); 'Do Pawtou', for a regional Domino Tournament held in Dominica; and songs for several participants in DBS' Christmas Song Contest and the DOMFESTA Song Contest.

On the Calypso scene, for several years Wakas served as Manager of Dominica's eight-time Calypso Monarch, King Dice.

AUGUSTUS "PEREZ" ST. HILAIRE and GEORGE "ZYRO" ST. HILAIRE: Augustus and George are two brothers from Grand Bay. "Perez" captained and was a regular top-scorer on Nationals – the first basketball team to emerge from Grand Bay and to play in the national league. "Zyro" played with Pros.

In the line of arts and entertainment, Perez was a keyboard player with Black Machines. Zyro was also a member of Black Machines, a pioneering Cadence band whose popularity rocketed with their very popular cadence song, 'Annayé Oti La-la Wai-o'.

AUSTINE NICHOLS: Austine was a member of Dominica's Under-20 Basketball Team from 2010 to 2012, and then the Under-23 team (2012). He has been a member of X-Men (Premier Division) since 2013, playing as a point-guard.

Off the court and into the pan-yard, Austine is a steelband player. He began playing 'pan since 2004, and currently plays single-tenor with Pan in Harmony Steel Orchestra, although he can play in any section of a steelband. Nichols previously played with Cool Steel, Genesis, R.I.C. and Real Steel Orchestras. Notably, Austine played with Harmonites Steel Orchestra in Antigua's Panorama Competition for Carnival 2016.

AYOUB MORANCIE: Ayoub played basketball in the national league with Prowlers from the Roseau Valley, before forming the Trafalgar Wild Cats which competed in the Intermediate Division. He also served as Secretary-Treasurer on the Executive of the defunct Dominica Basketball Officials Association (DBOA), and received an award from DBOA as the Most Promising Referee for 1996.

Of the court, however, Ayoub was a guitarist, lead vocalist and former band leader with Look-Us Band from Trafalgar.

BERNARD "LITTLE BERNARD" JOSEPH: Bernard captained Green City Division I basketball team in 1985, the team's only appearance in the national league. But, quite apart from motivating his teammates, Bernard used his voice as a back-up singer and part-time vocalist with the Swingin' Stars Orchestra and Swingin' Stars Combo. He backed-up calypsonians at several calypso competitions in the 1980s into the 1990s, and sang a few numbers such as 'Bernie', when Stars played at dances. Little Bernard was also a member of the 'U-Jamah' band in the early 1980s before he moved over to Stars.

[See next issue for Segment B of 4-part article]