Hoop dreamsFormer WNBA Champion ‘Jamaican Hurricane’ hoping to develop women’s basketball in Caribbean
Simone ‘Jamaican Hurricane’ Edwards graced the shores of The Bahamas for the first-time last weekend to be a speaker at the 2018 Success Summit put on by Hubert Edwards Global.
She took some time out of her busy schedule to talk about her journey and what she hopes see happens in the Caribbean for women’s basketball.
Edwards is the first Caribbean and Jamaican woman to play in the WNBA. She played for the New York Liberty and the Seattle Storm.
Now fully retired from playing the sport and living in Atlanta, Georgia, she wants to focus on developing women’s basketball in the Caribbean region.
“When you take a look at women’s basketball in the Caribbean, there is not a lot of support financially. I had to take a team for one week, had to do my own marketing and raising funds plus coach the team. I had to prepare them for one week – they never played with each other and then compete. I studied a little sports psychology so I knew how to train and developed them in a week’s time,” she said
The parallel between Caribbean countries when it comes to women’s basketball is basically the same – they are not receiving the assistance they need to develop the local talent.
She said she got discouraged from coaching the Jamaican National team because she had to beg for assistance.
Edwards remembers Waltiea Rolle playing for The Bahamas when she was playing. She further went on to say that she heard about Rolle’s shot blocking ability.
She wants to see The Bahamas, Jamaica and other Caribbean countries develop but stated that it is difficult to do.
“I always wanted to be a part of FIBA to help develop Caribbean teams, not just Jamaica. I want to see a structure to help develop all these Caribbean teams but it is so difficult,” Edwards said.
As to what is needed to develop basketball, Edwards said: “First off, people like myself and other players, that is from that country who made it overseas or got college scholarships, the young girls have to see them more and the opportunity to get scholarship and go pro. The schools have to have the facilities in place. Women’s basketball is one of the leading sports in terms of college scholarships. I am willing as a person if they are willing to invest and say come down and even bring players to help develop players – to make them stronger and get scholarship overseas. They will get to play against better players and come back and make the national team stronger.”
Cuba and Puerto Rico are two of the consistent powerhouses of women’s basketball in the region. Edwards noted that those players are developed because the core group has been playing together for years.
She stressed that junior programs have to be in place if countries want to pick a national team so there can be a succession plan in place for when the older players move off the scene.
This past summer, Jurelle Mullings brought in two college coaches to do a showcase during her 9th annual ‘Ballin’ by Da Beach Basketball Camp’. After the camp, the coaches said a lot of the female basketball players that they saw were very athletic but lacked the fundamental skills.
Edwards said: “When they found me they said I was very athletic but lacked the skills. Fundamentals are taught. So, if they are not being taught, most coaches like athleticism because fundamentals can be taught.”
Growing up in Jamaica, she did track and field and never played basketball in high school. She was seen by Seminole Junior College head coach who saw her height and athleticism and decided to give her a ticket out of Jamaica.
“I was coming from a track meet in Jamaica and two coaches were there – one from Oklahoma University, coach Gary Hudson, and coach Smiley. They called me and said that I was athletic and told me to give basketball a try and they will give me a scholarship. I jumped at the opportunity as a poor girl and couldn’t afford college. I didn’t know that game but I learnt it and the rest is history,” Edwards said.
During her three years at Seminole in Oklahoma, she led her team to an undefeated conference record and had the program in the top ten ranking in the National Junior College Athletic Association. She received many awards in the sport and was the first Kodak All-American player in school history. She was also inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2005.
After finishing up her JuCo career, she went and played at the University of Iowa where she was named co-captain. Unfortunately for the 6’ 4” power forward center, things went downhill. She tore her ACL back-to-back but was able to finish her senior year.
She went undrafted into the WNBA but after tryouts, she was ushered into the WNBA as a developmental player. She was signed by the New York Liberty in 1997. Unfortunately, she didn’t make her debut in the WNBA until 2000.
She got injured and played overseas in Italy, Hungary, Israel and Spain.
She signed with the Seattle Storm in 2000 and won a WNBA title in 2004.
She is known for her “shimmy shake”. She became a member of the Seattle Storm Legend Fraternity in 2014.
In her 178 career games in the WNBA, the ‘Jamaican Hurricane’ averaged 17.1 minutes per game. 5.3 points per game and 3.5 rebounds per game. Her best statistical season was in 2001 when she was started in 27 of the 32 games that she played in. She grabbed 4.9 rebounds per game and scored 7.4 points per game while shooting 47.9 percent from the field.
She retired in 2006 and has represented Jamaica in international play, winning the gold medal in the Caribbean Basketball Confederation Championship as a player. She returned as the head coach in 2014 and won the same championship as a coach.
She is a part of the Maxwell James Speakers Bureau and founded the Anti-Bully Project.
She wants to return to The Bahamas not just as a motivational speaker, but she wants to help the local girls develop their basketball skills.
“I am hoping that in the future when I am down here again I would to do something with the girls with basketball,” she said. “I love when my time is used to help young girls in one way or the other. That is my life and passion, to help to change lives especially young girls.”
She is happy to see that The Bahamas has produced professional basketball players in Jonquel Jones and Rolle. She knows they are more out there who have the potential to become professionals and, hopefully, more past and present professional collegiate players come back and inspire the players to get where they reached.
One day, the Caribbean will likely get more women’s basketball players and programs in place, Edwards hopes that time will come sooner than later.