Oliver Burton on the Court
Jump Ball No. 41. By Arlington James
He's now retired, and his many greys give him this air of accomplishment. His son Sharome plays basketball. He loved playing softball cricket, and has spent thousands of hours fishing for 'Gwan-dékay', 'Blue-runner' and the like. Importantly, however, he played competitive basketball for a decade!
Oliver Burton of Roseau, with Grand Bay roots, is from Dominica's old school basketball fraternity, having debuted in our National League in 1974 playing with one of St. Mary's Academy two senior division teams then. That year he scored almost 50% of his team's 55 Pts against Dominica Grammar School, sinking in 27 Pts.
Popularly known as "Neckers", Oliver actually helped form another team in the League, FLAMES, while still at SMA. However, he had to wait until after graduation to begin playing with his new team.
Neckers stepped onto the Windsor Park court with White Horse Flames in April 1975, joining Robert "Bob" Alexander, Alvin Bernard, Lenny Bernard, Seibert Didier, Augustus Harris, Bernard "Young" Polydore – whom he described as "a real team player", Peter 'Black' Skerrit and others. In his first game with the team he had helped form he sank a reasonable 14 Pts in their defeat of Pros, 67-58.
Playing with Flames, five of Neckers' highest game-scores were 36 Pts and 33 vs Cardinals in 1977; 36 vs Rockers in 1978; 30 against Harks in 1978; and a swishing 42 during his last few years.
During his career right-handed Neckers, who mainly played Guard, led Flames to capture four (4) of their championships in Dominica's National League. They 'took' the 1976 League Championship, raised the 1977 Knock-Out Champions trophy, and snatched both League & Knock-Out honours in 1978 with Neckers' help.
The two teams that he enjoyed playing against the most were Cardinals and Pros due to their competitive nature; both teams had previously enjoyed League Champions status.
Neckers was well known for his "off-the-board" jump shot, and his favorite shooting spot was the right-hand corner of the court.
He also played with Upsetters in DABA's Off-Season League when the association staged such competitions.
Sporting National Colours: Oliver represented the Nature Island on Dominica's Basketball Team with distinction during his basketball career, captaining the team for a decade, from 1976 through 1985. However, he first donned "national" colours in 1974 while still at school and playing with SMA.
His next tour of duty was when Dominica participated in the inaugural Windward Islands Basketball Tournament (WIBT) held in St. Lucia in 1975. He played in one more edition of WIBT, leading Dominica to win the Tournament in Roseau in 1976.
Burton's next represented Sisserou Land in the 1981 CARICOM Basketball Championships which were held in Guyana.
Oliver then played with the National Team in the first two editions of the OECS Basketball Championships, firstly in Dominica (1984) and then in Antigua (1985).
Other Overseas Engagements & Friendlies: Neckers traveled with the Island Team to participate in mini-tournaments staged in Guadeloupe, Martinique and Antigua. He was also temporarily drafted by Cardinals for friendlies in Martinique and Guadeloupe.
On the local scene, Oliver recalls travelling to Grand Bay with Flames where they engaged Pros in "friendlies". He also remembers playing on the first basketball court in the North-East, and that was located between Marigot and the Melville Hall River.
Before retiring from Dominica's Public Service, Neckers played with Inland Revenue – where he worked – in a friendly versus Customs.
Sharing Basketball Stories: Every basketballer has his personal treasure-chest of basketball stories, and Neckers' collection sparkles. For instance, his individual awards include Dominica's MVP at the 1976 Windward Islands Basketball Tournament.
Together with several other players of his day, Oliver spent many hours playing 'Round The World', in order help sharpen his shooting skills.
Further, Burton feels very strongly that 'Rough 21' was the best game for developing players' individual skills.
Neckers also relates that in one of the many friendly Free-Throw sessions in which he participated, he burnt 40 consecutive shots from the 'foul-line'!
Oliver laments that the only match he ever played where he did not score a point was against Antigua in the 1st OECS Championships, as he was triple-teamed.
Neckers also disclosed that one afternoon, while heading home from attending a funeral he ended up playing a pick-up game at SMA, still dressed in his 'funeral clothes'.
Burton revealed further that together with George Bruney, Ashton Delauney and others, they would sometimes remain shooting at Windsor Park under moonlight. And when there was no moonlight – or other light source - they would count the number of paces from the basket to the spot from where they were going to shoot in order to gauge the distance from the basket. WOW Neckers!