Sitting in the President's Chair
Jump Ball No. 52 (Part I). By Arlington James
Dominica became a politically Independent State in 1978 and to date has had nine persons who have served The Nature Isle in the capacity of President of the Commonwealth of Dominica. The eight former Presidents served for periods ranging from two successive terms of 5 years each to only 1 day, while the current Head of State, His Excellency Charles Angelo Savarin is currently serving the first year of his second term of office. No woman has ever been elected to that Office to date.
The administration of basketball at the highest level in Dominica began in 1966, some twelve years before the island attained political independence. In the formative years of the 'National' Basketball League the sport at the 'national' level here was administered under the auspices of the Basketball Sub-Committee of the Dominica Amateur Sports Association (DASA).
DASA's Basketball Sub-committee was headed by a Chairman, and the last – and possibly the only - person to hold that position was none other than Reginald St. Havis Shillingford who was simultaneously serving as DASA's Secretary.
The venue for the playing of matches in Dominica's Basketball League, basketball tournaments and friendlies moved from the St. Mary's Academy to the Windsor Park in 1972, still with 'Havis' at the helm. Mr. Shillingford may have continued heading Dominica's basketball until the establishment of the Dominica Amateur Basketball Association (DABA) in 1974 when Dominica's basketball fraternity elected its first President. Two year later, Dominica became a member of FIBA, the International Basketball Federation.
Over the years, as the sport grew and spread around the island many communities established their own basketball committees or associations which had their own presidents. However, for the purposes of this article Jump Ball will focus attention on the Presidents of the national association, viz. the Dominica Amateur Basketball Association.
The following are brief presentations on the 13 individuals who have headed the DABA in terms of the various teams that each played with in the national league as well as the period(s) that they directed the Association.
'Mr. Basketball Himself' grabs the first possession.
Wilmoth 'Plastic' 'Willie' Leblanc is one of the pioneers of basketball on Dominica, having played in the inaugural basketball league which tipped off in 1966. His first league team was Limers which remained on the scene for only two seasons.
Willie then teamed up with a few other top players in the League to form the legendary Cardinals which debuted in 1968. He remained with that record-setting team into the mid-1980s, serving as player, player-coach and then coach.
Plastic was also a founding member of Owls, and remained actively competing until that team bowed out at the end of the 1989 season.
Further, Willie was a member of Dominica's first State Team in 1967, and played on the 'national' team for several years thereafter. He also coached the senior national team in the 1970s and 1980s.
Mr. LeBlanc was the first person to 'sit in DABA's President's Chair', heading the Association from 1974. During his Presidency DABA's application to FIBA for membership to the world body for basketball was submitted.
RONALD 'RON' GREEN played with and coached South-East Suns from La Plaine, in the Intermediate Division of the National League.
As President of the DABA, Ron served for three consecutive two-year terms, from the late 1970s into the early 1980s, possibly 1976-1982. Dominica's application for membership of FIBA was approved during Ron's tenure as DABA President.
Edgar 'Robo' Robinson first played in the National League in the 1960s with the Dominica Grammar School Senior team. After graduation he played with three teams in that league: Electrons, Harks, and finally Pioneers in the mid- to late-1990s. He also coached for several years.
Robo is one of 5 Basketball Presidents who served the DABA for multiple terms, though not consecutively. He was the one in the chair steering the DABA ship from 1982 to 1984, then from 2000 to 2002, and more recently from 2008 to 2010.
David John Fontaine is one of three past Dominican Basketball Presidents who did not play basketball. However, he had a keen interest in the game, offering his services to the Association in the 1980s.
Fontaine was elected to the post of President of DABA in 1984, for a two-year term of office. Prior to that he had served on the Association's Executive as Secretary.