LEVI "BUMPING" BARON… Still Full of Energy
Jump Ball: A peek at local basketball then and now
About 25 years ago Levi "Bumping" Baron, while still in his youth and with a deep passion for basketball, helped form a basketball team in the southern village of Pichelin. He suggested naming that Division II team Pacers, after his favourite team in the NBA.
Levi, himself from Pichelin, first took to the hardcourt with "his" team in the national league from about 1990, and in about two years Pacers had won the Division II championship; the team's sponsor was D-Supply Store.
In his quarter-century of playing league basketball, "Bumping" has played for five teams thus far: Pacers in their formative years; Raiders from Portsmouth when he moved temporarily to the northern town; Clouds Division I (from Goodwill); No Look in the Premier Division; and he has been a member of Ole Skool for the past three seasons. The latter team plays in the lower of the two men's Divisions of the DABA.
Basketball "runs" in Levi's family, so to speak. Levi played 'ball together with his brother Daniel on Raiders, and his 14-year old son, Kohath, is currently a member of the St. Mary's Academy basketball team.
Bumping loves sports in general, and while attending the Pichelin Primary School he bowled medium-pace on the school's cricket team. He also played football at school, and claims to have set a "couple" of records in the schools' athletics meet in middle and long-distance running, although he did compete in sprint as well. He also loves volleyball, and plays a bit of golf when he makes his annual visits to Antigua.
Apart from playing in the national league, Levi has also participated in several community "off-season" leagues. He played with Cornfield Hoyas and other teams in the Portsmouth League; with the Petite Savanne team in the La Plaine League; and also in the Grand Bay and Fond Colé Leagues. He has also played "friendlies" at Soufriere, and at the Dominica State Prison (DSP) against a team of DSP inmates. He stayed off the hardcourt for only one season.
Although Baron never represented Dominica in the sport of basketball, on several occasions he was selected onto the squad for the national team even while in Division II.
Do you think you would have the energy and perseverance to remain on an outdoor basketball court from around 9:00 a.m. to about 6:00 p.m.? Well, Bumping has. For example on a Saturday, together with team-mate Jason Jno. Jules, he would practice shooting 3-Pointers with their target set at 300 scored shots! They would sometimes attempt as many as 1,000 long ones in order to achieve their goal! They would also engage each other in Free-Throw contests, and in one such instance he sank 21 consecutive shots from the "Foul-Line".
Levi Baron is a tour operator/tour guide by profession, often hiking with his clients to areas such as Middleham Falls, Boiling Lake, etc. So, you may be wondering, where does "Bumping" - now in his 40s, at 6ft tall, and only 155-160 lb - get all of that energy from? To enable him to sometimes play the entire 40 minutes in a fast-paced league match? Well, it's from a combination of his dieting and exercise. For one, Levi does not drink alcohol or smoke; he is a vegetarian and does not eat meat or fish, nor does he drink milk; and he consumes very little sugary products such as cakes, soft-drinks, ice-cream, puddings etc. He loves anything natural such as fruits, beans, vegetables, etc.
Importantly, from the second half of 2016 the "Bugs-Bunny Man" seriously took up cycling as another hobby, sometimes cycling up to 100 miles over a weekend. He sometimes cycles from Roseau to Portsmouth and back, and at other times from Tarou to Pointe Michel, recording all his cycling stats as he goes along burning those calories.
Apart from playing, Levi also coaches and keeps stats of his players during the game. He coached FashionLine Falcons (from his home-village Pichelin) into winning the Division I (second level men's division) championship in 2013, and continued with the Falcons Premier Division team upon their promotion to that Division from 2014. In 2015 the team made the Play-Offs, and in 2016 they made the Finals of that competition.
Although Baron does not keep a tally of his game scores, he has top-scored in many games with all of the teams that he has played thus far. He believes that his highest game-score in the national league was 56 points, with Pacers in Division I. However, his all-time highest individual game-score was 57 points, in the Grand Bay League. That score was soon equalled by Cameron Bellot in Bellot's next game. He keeps on making the high-scorers' list in Division I, and in his two most recent seasons his best tally was 33 points, which he made with Ole Skool in a 2016 Presidents' Cup match.
Levi has a small collection of eight or so trophies, including one that he received for being the highest aggregate scorer in the 1993 Division II national league. Also included in his collection are two other trophies that he received as Coach-of-the-Year, coaching the Falcons before the latter were promoted to the Premier Division.
Levi plays in the position of guard, rotating between Point-Guard and Shooting- Guard, but at one time he also played Forwards. Initially, he started driving in for most of his shots, but currently he is a mid-range jump-shooter. He steals quite a few balls while on defence, and according to Mr Energetic himself, "when it comes to rebounds, I am OK." Although like most other local basketballers, Baron is self-taught, he credits Adenauer "Washway" Douglas of Portsmouth for some of his skills. Douglas, he said, imparted many playing and coaching tips to him while he was a member of Raiders.
Levi disclosed that while with Pacers, the team that he enjoyed playing against the most was X-Men, and that was due to the rivalry that existed between those two teams. Today, however, he has no favourite opponents, as he plays his game for fun... but still quite passionately.
At his age and with the greys beginning to show, but still playing competitive basketball with youngsters who are less than half his age, Bumping is still able to dunk although, he admits, he is not able to jump as high as he used to a few years ago.
Apart from channelling most of his basketball energies into playing and coaching, "Bumping" also served in the 1990s as captain and vice-captain of the Pacers team, rotating with Ted "Shaba" George and Virgo Registe. He also helped establish the Pichelin Basketball Academy in 2016. That academy comprises 15 young players aged 11-17 years old and, together with Kijuan Thomas, Yannick Régiste and Khadrie Thomas, he coaches and trains the youngsters. He was also instrumental in the formation of the current Falcons Premier Division team, playing the role of chief organizer.
And, just in case you may be thinking that this player who has joined the Roaring Forties is contemplating retiring, think again. Levi "Bumping" Baron, with a twinkle in his eye, states emphatically, "I don't feel older than an 18-year old. I'll still be on the court once I can play."
By Arlington James