By RON FANFAIR
Just two Caribbean players are in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and they are both from St. Vincent & the Grenadines.
Power forward Sancho Lyttle became the first player from the chain of islands to compete in the league when she was drafted fifth overall by the defunct Houston Comets in 2005.
A year later, the state of Texas welcomed another Vincentian when the San Antonio Silver Stars used the fourth pick to draft 6’1″, 165-pound forward Sophia Young. She paid instant dividends, leading her team in scoring (12.0), rebounding (7.6) and minutes played (1055) while appearing in all 34 games as a starter in her rookie season.
Young was rewarded with a West All-Star call-up, making her one of four rookies to earn all-star nods.
After five seasons, she is an integral part of her team. In 2008, she finished fourth in the Most Valuable Player voting and scored a buzzer-beating game-winner against the Los Angeles Sparks to force a deciding Game Three in the Western Conference finals.
“Looking back, I have been blessed in many ways that I cannot even understand,” Young told Share while in Toronto last weekend for the St. Vincent & the Grenadines Association of Toronto celebration to mark the islands’ independence anniversary. “I have been given an opportunity and I have tried to make the most of it.”
Like recently-retired fellow Vincentian, Adonal Foyle, who spent 13 seasons in the NBA and was inducted into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame last year, Young wants to be defined by her contributions to mankind and not by her basketball statistics.
Playing basketball professionally is simply not enough for her.
She sponsors a Rwandan child and plans to build a facility for abused girls and young women.
“To whom much is given, much is expected,” said Young whose college jersey number was retired by Baylor two years ago. “As much as I have attained, I want to give back. When I was in college, Compassion Ministry came to my school and talked about becoming a child sponsor. It was something I wanted to do and I seized the opportunity, sponsoring a young boy who is now 11. It’s a great experience and one that’s fulfilling.
“As far as establishing a shelter is concerned, young girls are abused daily and they are psychologically scarred for life. My goal is to build a home, possibly in Texas where I now reside, to try to get them off the street and gave them hope and a future.”
Another similarity between Foyle and Young is that they both started playing organized basketball in their teenage years.
She represented her island at the Under-16 level in netball and did not take hoops seriously until she went to the United States as an exchange student in 1999 as a 15-year-old. While based in Shreveport, Louisiana at Evangel Christian Academy, local Amateur Athletic Union coach Bo Roberts helped her secure a scholarship to Baylor.
Young led the Texan university to its first national championship in 2005 and left as the Big 12 all-time leading scorer with 2,480 points.
Despite her individual success – 15.9 points and 6.2 rebounds – and durability, she has started in all 167 games, the Silver Stars has been to the WNBA finals just once since Young has been with the franchise. They were swept 3-0 in 2008 by the Detroit Shock which moved to Tulsa after the 2009 season.
“Obviously, I want to win a championship,” she said. “Success in sport is measured by winning and my goal is to win a title.”
Turning 27 on December 17, Young – who also plays in the Turkish league – feels she has a few more years left in her before she leaves the court.
“I will play as long as God gives me the ability to play,” she said. “I am going to take things one step at a time and see what comes. Right now, I don’t know what I am going to do when I am finished playing. I am all over the place right now. When the time comes I will figure out what I want to do.”
The fashion industry could be the next calling for the sophisticated sports star who organized a fashion show in St. Vincent last month for her Roy Mass Youth Alternative Inc. charity that’s committed to caring for children in crisis.
This was Young’s second visit to Toronto after attending her father’s funeral in May 2009. Denniston Young, a popular band leader and arranger, died of a heart attack at age 51.