Above: St Vincent’s Sophia Young
By Alexander Britell
Around 120,000 people live in St Vincent and the Grenadines. But the small island in the southern Caribbean is currently over-represented on one major stage: the WNBA.
The Women’s National Basketball Association has become something of a Caribbean address, highlighted by two Vincentians: Sancho Lyttle and Sophia Young.
Lyttle, a native of Kingstown, currently plays for the Atlanta Dream. She has been playing in the Women’s National Basketball Association since 2005, when she was the fifth overall pick of the now-defunct Houston Comets franchise.
Young, the fourth overall pick in the 2006 draft after a stellar career at Baylor University, leads the San Antonio Silver Stars, who have already qualified for a playoff berth.
“It means a lot to me [to represent St Vincent],” Young tells Caribbean Journal. “I think there’s a lot of girls and boys who are thinking about playing sports, and for us to be doing this and to be an example, and to show them this is possible, it says a lot.”
Lyttle (who has acquired Spanish citizenship after playing professionally there), like many in the Caribbean, began her athletic career in track and field — not playing basketball until late in her childhood.
“I got a scholarship [from the University of Houston] because of my basketball ability,” she says. “I wasn’t really a basketball player — I used to run track, and got a scholarship.”
While track remains dominant in the Caribbean, the region’s basketball culture — particularly for women — is growing, albeit at a slow pace.
“I’d say it’s growing, but it’s growing very slowly because of a lack of funds,” Lyttle says. “But countries like this take a long time to develop. And track and soccer are the two main sports in most Caribbean countries — I did track, and it just so happened that I got the opportunity [in basketball].”
Young, a three-time WNBA all-star, says basketball has developed more of a following back at home, in the face of competition from track and another sports — netball.
“We were trying to start something when I was there — but I think now it has grown bigger and bigger,” she says. “People like Sancho and I, people who have come from our country that have made it to the top level, that has shed a lot of positive light — to see something that girls and boys can be focused on and that the country should pay attention to.”