By Rawle Toney
NO more ‘Mr. Dunk’, no more ‘Ball-Eye’…Andrew Ifill sent fans and administrators of the game of basketball in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago into mourning when news of his death spread across both countries.
Ifill, 40, is considered as one of the best forwards Guyana has ever produced, and when he migrated to the Twin Island Republic over 12 years ago, he became one of the best players to grace the courts on the Island.
In an exclusive interview with Chronicle Sport last evening, businessman and coach of Shak Attack Basketball Club, Gordon Felix, who was Ifill’s employer, explained that the famed Guyanese basketball player died in the washroom of his job, Lifestyles Motors.
Felix said Ifill actually died on Sunday, October 20, between 6:00pm and 8:00pm. According to Felix, someone went to the premises to releave Ifill and the doors were locked. The person, a female, called out to him and Ifill responded that he’s in the toilet and asked for the woman to “hold on.”
After over an hour passed and calls to Ifill went unanswered, the coach and businessman explained that he rushed down to the building and opened up. It was then they found the former National player face-down in the toilet, motionless. Felix said upon the discovery, he called the country’s medical response team, who pronounced the Guyanese dead.
“He had no enemies; he was well-liked! Mannerly, loving and his death rocked me more than my own sister’s,” Felix said.
Felix recalled he lost his sister two days ago, but he was not moved by her death since she was bedridden for over three years. However, he said he’s still in shock and at a lost since Ifill was like his son, given the fact that they lived together.
“My son just got a scholarship to play in the USA and Ifill was a major part of that happening. He was there for my son, both on and off the couch. To be honest, this one hit me harder than my own sister’s death. I didn’t cry for my sister, but I couldn’t hold it back for Ifill,” Felix sorrowfully explained.
Ifill was inactive on the court at the time of his death, as Felix noted that “he wasn’t playing for well over a year, but he was in the gym and working out and so on. He had gained a little weight, but he was still sound with the basketball; one of the most dominant players I’ve ever coached and worked with. He lived with me for a long time and he was like my son. I’m going to miss him so much; I know I’m not going to get over this no time soon.”
Most dominant player in Trinidad
Trinidad and Tobago National Coach, Christopher Jackson Charles, told Chronicle Sport that he was the first person to take Ifill to Trinidad, adding “I had come to Guyana to coach the Trinidad women’s team around 2006/2007, I think, and I saw him play. He was the best player in the tournament; the male team played against Guyana and DC Jammers. I approached him and asked him if he wanted to play in Trinidad…he said yes.”
Jackson coached The Maloney Pacers basketball Club and it was Ifill, the coach said, that opened the doors for other players from Guyana to come to Trinidad to play the beautiful game of basketball.
“He was a great Caribbean, not just Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana, player. Very dominant and he use to rock Maloney Gardens (the home court of the Maloney Pacers). We had some fun times. He was very respectful and mannerly. The time I asked him to come, he was working at Banks DIH. He didn’t hesitate to leave his job in Guyana to come play in Trinidad. It was because of Ifill, we started looking for players from Guyana. Even Stanton Rose (current CBC MVP) played for us, and Timothy Thompson and other really good players from Guyana; I’m going to miss him,” Jackson said.
A Guyanese basketball legend
Lugard Mohan, former National captain, who played alongside Ifill, where they had a then-third place finish at the Caribbean basketball Confederation (CBC) Championship in Barbados, said “Ifill is one of the hardest working player I played with, always working on his craft to get better, never saw a shot he didn’t think like, hence the alias “ball-eye”… SIP ball-eye.”
Meanwhile, president of the Guyana Amateur Basketball Federation (GABF) Michael Singh, reflecting on Ifill’s impact on the game locally, said “Ifill was one of the players I started my career with, playing Third Division basketball for Colts around 1995, and both of us progressed into first division together… I watched him progressed as a national player, he was tutored by the late Phillip ‘One Foot’ George.
I spoke to him almost nine days ago and he related to me that he would love to represent his country, versus Grenada in Guyana in December and if his leg had any juice, he would love to play for his country at the CBC in 2020, wherever that would be held.”
“I can safely guarantee you that we will be acknowledging him…especially at my level, we’re going to acknowledge and celebrate the life of Andrew Ifill,” Singh related.
Ifill made a life from basketball, playing professionally throughout the region, Dubai and in Mexico.
He last represented Guyana at the 2014 CBC Championships in the BVI, where he teamed up with former Dallas Mavericks and Indiana Pacers guard, Rawle Marshall, to guide Guyana to a 5th place finish. In that tournament, Ifill finished with an average of 12.2 points, six rebounds and 1.6 assists.