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The walking redwood that is Garth Joseph first appeared five years ago at the College of Saint Rose in the Pine Hills section of Albany. He showed up, all 7-foot-2, 320 pounds of him, from the island of Dominica in the Carribbean.
Big Garth was going to play basketball at St. Rose.
He was strong as an ox had hands that could engulf your head. He also was slow, questionably coordinated and a tad clumsy.
Fast forward to late Monday afternoon. Joseph's large-than-life frame was sprawled on a bed in a four-star hotel in downtown Toronto. Every time the phone in his room rang, he said, he sprang to it like a cat.
The phone was ringing all day. Finally, late in the day, the call came. It was telling Joseph that he now was a member of the Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association, where his teammates include high-flying Vince Carter and former New York Knicks Mark Jackson and Charles Oakley.
The Raptors announced that Joseph would begin the year on the team's injured list, meaning he will not be in uniform for at least the first five games. Joseph has a sore right ankle and his ribs are banged up a bit. But tonight, in the 19,500-seat Air Canada Centre, Joseph will be sitting on the bench in street clothes watching his team play the Detroit Pistons.
To borrow from a famous song, what a long, strange trip it's been.
Brian Beaury, the coach at St. Rose, had met Joseph in the summer of 1995 at a basketball tournament in Dominica, where Beaury had traveled to scout another, long-since-forgotten player.
"The first time I ever saw Garth play, he made this tomahawk dunk over one of our guys and was fouled,'' Beaury said. "Then I saw him try to run and then I saw him try to shoot. I called (St. Rose assistant) Don Bassett and told him I had found a 7-footer. He asked me if he could play and I said no. He asked me if he could run and I said no.''
But as any coach will tell you, you can't teach height. So Beaury offered Joseph a chance to play at St. Rose. Joseph flashed that great big toothy smile of his and said, "Why not?'' He liked Beaury enough, and thought it would be neat to study mathematics at an American college.
Basketball never was going to be a huge deal. Joseph didn't have visions of playing for pay. Truth is, when his collegiate career ended, Joseph didn't think he would even venture down to Washington Park to play pickup.
"When I got to St. Rose, the only goal I had was to get a degree and to go home,'' Joseph said with his familiar thick Carribbean accent.
Home is Roseau, the capital city of Dominica, where 20,000 people live. Joseph always will have a fondness for his homeland, an island that stretches 29 miles long and 16 miles at its widest. He will tell you about its natural beauty, its more than 300 rivers and multiple rain forests and lakes.
One day Garth Joseph will go home, but it won't be any time soon.
Joseph discovered in three years at St. Rose that he liked basketball more than he thought, and, with his size, figured he might be able to make a little money playing in the pro ranks. Few observers thought he had the skill to make it happen. But sometime today he will sign an NBA contract, a deal that will become guaranteed for the full amount if he is on the team as of Jan. 1. Details of his agreement were not released, but the NBA minimum is $400,000 a year.
"This is going to be more new to me than it is to you,'' said Joseph, who said he was going to dinner at Oakley's house Monday night. "I am very excited about this, very. I know there are people that have wondered what was up with Garth Joseph. They are saying, is he washed up again? I might disappear for awhile, but I never gave up. You know me. I will never give up.''
While at St. Rose, Joseph was a dominating force in the world of Division II basketball, blocking shots, rebounding and scoring when called upon. Taking this game to the next level? NBA people shrugged. Yes, Joseph was big, but boy was he raw.
Everyone knew he needed work. Perhaps most importantly, so did Joseph.
For the past few years he has bounced around the basketball bush leagues, with stints in the USBL and the IBA. He played for a time overseas.
Still, he knew he had to get better. He still was too slow, and the coordination wasn't there yet. Neither was the mobility that is required to compete in the fast-paced NBA.
Joseph decided to take on a personal trainer, a man named Wayne Alpert, who works in the Boston area. Alpert had worked with pros such as Antonio Davis, Jon Koncak, Mark Eaton and Donald Royal. Alpert told Joseph he had a chance, but he was going to have to work.
The best news, from Joseph's perspective, was this: If he didn't make the NBA, he didn't have to pay.
Joseph spent all summer with Alpert. He was strong enough to endure the rigors of the NBA, but he had to change his body. Alpert put his project on a special diet and had him lose weight. Alpert said Joseph is about 295 now, and the package is just about all chiseled muscle.
''Basketball is not a game for the Goliaths,'' Alpert said. "It's a game for the deers, even though some of them are bigger than others. When Garth first came to me he had problems in a number of areas. He just absorbed information and he kept on working.''
Joseph, who turned 27 in August, knew the clock was ticking against him. He had his doubts, still. He had been disappointed by the NBA before. Alpert kept working him.
Antonio Davis, also of the Raptors, came to town to work with Alpert in late summer. The trainer invited him to play a little one-on-one with Joseph. When they were finished, the seven-year NBA veteran wanted to know what NBA camp Joseph was going to. When he found out there was none, he made a call. He told the Toronto organization that it might want to bring in big Joseph for a look.
"We worked out together during the summer, and what I saw in Garth was a young man who had a desire to get better,'' Davis said. "I saw him lose weight. I saw him go on a strict diet. I saw him work hard every day. I just thought I needed to help him out. I really feel he can play in this league if someone gives him a chance.''
Joseph was invited to Toronto's veteran camp and arrived on Oct. 2. No one knew what to expect, but Joseph, with his new and improved body, was confident. He began to believe he belonged. When he scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds in a preseason game against Indiana, he knew it.
The Toronto fans have fallen in love with him. He is nicknamed GarJo. It's a name similar to another sports icon in the city: Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Curtis Joseph, affectionately known as Cujo.
"When I first heard them yelling GarJo, I didn't know what it meant,'' Joseph said. "My mother is a big sports fan and she watches hockey on TV back home. She knows Cujo. Now people are starting to know who I am, that I can play.''
He just had to convince the Raptors, especially Hall of Fame coach Lenny Wilkens.
"He has a nice touch around the net,'' Wilkens said. "What I am looking for him to do is rebound and clog up the middle. I am very pleased with what he has done so far, because he has kind of come out of nowhere.
"He is a big guy and, believe me, he isn't going to be knocked off the block. You just can't teach a guy to be 7-2.''
As Monday afternoon pushed into Monday evening, Joseph was gushing, not for himself, but for the people he believes got him here. It sounded like he was practicing a speech for the Oscars. He thanked everyone.
He thanked his wife of just a few months, Zosia Roberts (they are the parents of Garth Jr.), as well as his mom Priscilla Dejean and sister Brenda, who are back in Dominica. And the list went on and on. He called St. Rose coaches Bassett and Beaury surrogate fathers. He couldn't say enough about Wayne Alpert (and his brother Keith). College friends like Alicia Duffy got the call. People who worked in Albany restaurants when Garth was here. You could not shut him up.
"I am the last on the list,'' he said. "I know I went through a lot this summer and have gone through a lot the last few years. I have heard people say I can't play in the NBA, that I would never be good enough. I have had a dream to do this. Every day I look to get better. There is no doubt in my mind that I can play in this league. I want to play here in Toronto. They aren't going to lose anything with me, and they might gain a whole lot. I never thought of playing basketball at the next level. But I have seen a lot of stuff, and I am really in love with this game.''
PAYS BACK MUM
The Sprint Queen rewards parents for athletic investment
By Paul Charles
ALL over the world students and their parents have for a very long time been in a quandary over how to blend academics with sports for success during their child's life at high school.
That debate played out in a cosy home in the quiet and picturesque northern village of Cottage twelve years ago. Let's enter the house of Cuthbert and Julie Daniel and their four children, Julia, Marcia, Gregory and Colmore.
Cottage, nestled in the hillside hamlet just five miles north of the second town of Portsmouth, has a population of four hundred welcoming faces who depend primarily on fishing and farming for their livelihood.
Portsmouth is a busy town on Dominica's west coast, thirty miles north of the capital Roseau, it is mainly a tourist oriented area with the well-respected Ross University Medical School -- an American owned facility that attracts pre-medicine students from all over the world.
Marcia, the second child, has graduated from the Clifton School to the Portsmouth Secondary School (PSS) and takes her love for track and field with her.
Her mother, a proud housewife, was concerned that her daughter has not made the transition to the higher level of education. She pointed out to her to take her school work seriously.
''Every time she came from school she have to tell me that she has to go down to training, she wants a dollar to pay my passage, I used to make noise with her. She said ''ma'' one day that dollar will pay off, when she says that it used to break my heart.
''So I would tell her you leaving your lessons and is athletics you want to do, she was telling me a sound mind in a healthy body so I used to encourage her because she was very interested in athletics,'' she recalled.
Her best friend, Marvlyn Carrette-Moise, a customer service clerk at the Portsmouth Cooperative Credit Union, cherishes the ''the good old days'' of liming with her buddy when she's off the field.
''We, like young people would normally do, cook together, make cake, tablet (sugar cake) and go to parties....She's that kind of loving and comforting person and I would remember those days especially,'' Carrette-Moise relived their child days with a hint of nostalgia.
Also the talented lass strutted her stuff on stage in a kid pageant in her native community. Her father, a builder, was alerted to by a villager to expect great things.
''Marcia has always been an energetic child, when she was seven they had their little teen pageant in a disco in Toucarie, on the beach, and Mr. Frederick Rolle who is her boyfriend's grandfather told me to look forward to Marcia performing and doing great things because he can see something in that child,'' he remarked while relaxing from his trade.
Apart from cooking, partying and pageantry, Marcia, adorably hailed as Marcy by family and close friends, knew from primary school days that she wanted to venture into track and field unaware that Olympics would be her crowning glory.
''I just started running because I just liked the sport and I loved being active, but I never dreamed of one day being in the Olympics. In primary school and secondary school I began winning medals so for me it was like I was getting something from it, so now I'm going to the Olympics I'm seeing all my hard work is paying off right now,'' she recounted.
Marcy, who turns 23 on September 30, considered quitting the scene after a few injuries and fatigue but her heart just wont beat another tune other than get set, ready, go.
''One time in high school I twisted my ankle and I said maybe I should stop running because I'm just getting tired and hurting myself, but actually my parents just kept pushing me on and I just decided I will never stop running even if I'm sixty years, I will just go and run in the marathon,'' she said with a big smile.
She was keep to heap praise on several coaches who were responsible for her early development in her village. She credited primary schoolteacher Richard White, sports officer Billy Doctrove and former PSS teacher the late James Fabien for her earlier development in track.
She also singled out Dominica-based Swiss coaches Andy Burkard and Chris Roserens for assisting her in sharpening her skills after she completed high school.
Marcy has been making the Dean's List as a top academic student at the University of Missouri in Kansas since she migrated to the United States on an athletic scholarship in 1999.
She feels that the University has done a lot in training her to better performances in the sprint races.
And now the soft-spoken sprint queen has set her sights on turning in personal best times at the Sydney Olympics in September.
''I'm not going out there to say I'm going to medal or anything I have to be realistic, all I'm going to do is make a personal best and if it carries me further into the semi-finals I will be quite happy,'' she disclosed.
She aims to better her current best of 11.80 in 100 metres, 24.10 in 200 metres and 54.84 in 400 on the international scene.
And she intends to rise up to the big occasion with vivid memory of her debut appearance at the Pan American Games for Dominica eight years ago in Argentina.
''I ran the 200 (metres) and I was saying at the start of the race that I'm not big as the other competitors but just let me reach the finish line, and the coach told me after that I ran a personal best. I was so excited,'' She said delightfully.
Her lover, fellow national athlete and Portsmouth Amateur Athletic Club mate, Clive Baron, was hoping to debut with her in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece but he is now preparing for Marcia racing down the track in Sydney.
''My heart will start pumping and I will get goose bumps because I'm proud of her, next time I will be there with her at the next Olympics,'' promised the 400, 800 and 1500-metre specialist.
Dawn Williams-Sewer, the Dominican 800-metre athlete who participated in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, United States, thinks Marcy has the aptitude to excel.
''As for Marcy, she's a good kid. She reminds me so much of myself. Often, she is mistaken for being shy, but it's her quiet strength and determination, that have drawn me to her. Back in Dominica, we knew each other. However, up here in Missouri, we have really gotten close.
''I see so much promise in her potential, that I want to be there for her, no matter what. She is the future of Dominican athletics, and should be given love and support from all,'' she recommended.
Head track coach at the University of Missouri, Geoff Masanet, rated the athlete as ''blessed with natural ability.''
''I think Marcia is talented but I am cautious to use this phrase, because often times it takes away from her work ethic, which has ultimately made her the runner she is. She is definitely talented (blessed with natural ability) but it has been her ethic that has made her improve and become a great runner,'' he asssessed through email.
That greatness is what 74,000 Dominicans are hoping to become a reality at the Sydney Games next month.
DOMINICA'S FIRST TEST UMPIRE ---- An in-depth look into the making of a top class match official
By Paul Charles
What began as just a "hold on for a short while" experiment in a domestic cricket game has earned a young Dominican man a place in the record books of international Test cricket umpiring by becoming the first local to stand in a Test match, beginning May 25 at the Antigua Recreation Grounds in Antigua.
Billy Doctrove, a sports-crazed student of the Dominica Grammar School student in the early 1970s, was tossed into the role of umpire for about half of an hour by the highly-rated Dominican umpire Phillip Alleyne when the other official failed to appear for duty.
Doctrove relives that moment which catapulted him into his newly-found Test cricket umpire status. "Whilst at the Dominica Grammar School I always like my sports and I had come to look at a cricket game, and the Saturday morning umpire who was supposed to officiate with Mr. Alleyne was late so Mr. Alleyne asked me to hold on for that guy, I thought he would have been standing for about half an hour or so but I stood there for the entire pre-lunch period and the umpire came," he recalled.
Alleyne, who stood in two One Day Internationals and fourteen first-class matches, remembered Doctrove's performance as a perfect find many moons ago. "First of all I must tell you that Billy was a perfect find, when Billy was approached by me several years ago as a schoolboy to hold on for an umpire who did not turn out to officiate, it so happened that he did the match right through, at the end I was so satisfied with his performance that I encouraged him take umpiring and that he did," Alleyne recounted.
That talented lad that highly-impressed Alleyne was born in the north-eastern village of Marigot in 1956 to former Deputy Police Commissioner Hildreth Doctrove and his wife Clotilda, while he stationed as a policeman in that area of the 289 square mile island.
His father, the grandson of a Martiniquan turned Dominica, named their third child Billy Raymond Doctrove. The two other children are former Dominican cricketers Chaucer Doctrove and Fitzroy Doctrove.
Billy has always been a nice, quiet going youngster. I could always see in Billy that he is going to do something good providing of course that he carries on from where we taught him. I think he has done very well. I have always them, all my boys, Chaucer, Fitzroy, Billy that we may not have professionals in the family but whatever they do or attempt to do they must do it in a professional manner," he noted.
With the frequent postings of his father, the young Doctrove began his education and the Newtown Infant School, then the Roseau Boys', the Goodwill Junior High, the Dominica Grammar School and the Jamaica School of Agriculture in Jamaica.
While attending the Dominica Grammar School (DGS) in 1968, he established friendship with Derek Angol and Washbourne Cuffy who are still his best friends. Angol is a Quantity Surveyor and Cuffy is the acting Head of the Co-operative Division in the local Public Service. Angol revealed that their union is as strong as it was back then at the DGS when they "terrorised" sides with their goal scoring prowess. He added that they are both passionate fans of English football clubs Manchester and Liverpool respectively.
"I was put in a first form with Billy and from those days we struck up a friendship that has reached the stage, the year 2000. In those days in first form we struck a telepathic link with each other on the football field, and we used to score goals like water was flowing in the Roseau River.
"Right through Grammar School we retain our friendship and even past Grammar School. We were great football lovers, especially English football, Billy being a supporter of Liverpool and I being a supporter of Manchester United, and throughout all those years even if one team is successful we each buy each other a bottle of champagne, in the '70s and '80s I was doing most of the buying but in the '90s Billy has been doing all the buying," he disclosed.
To add to his undying love for English football, Doctrove adopted the name Toshack -- from the former Liverpool and Wales striker. He is former table tennis champion of the DGS and also played football and cricket for Saints and one-time Smartians (ex-Mary's Academy boys' team in the 1970s).
In 1975, the 19-year-old Doctrove joined the Dominica Cricket Umpires' Association which trained and groomed him for his umpiring career. Three years later, he added football refereeing to his officiating job. He mentioned Thomas Baptiste, Stuart Williams, John Simon and Alleyne as past umpires who contributed immensely to his development in the sport. He added he also receives training from International Cricket Council (ICC) umpires before the regional first-class season.
Doctrove became a qualified umpire in 1981, but he waited ten years after his qualification to stand in a first-class match because of a quota system of umpires. But the break came in 1991, when he stood in the Jamaica versus Windwards regional game here at Windsor Park. He has so far officiated in 27 first-class matches and nine One Day Internationals.
Sensing that he was on the verge of gaining selection on the West Indies Cricket Board's Test umpires' panel, he took the painful decision to bow out from refereeing about twenty years of dedicated service.
Despite, his rise to cricket's top, it was football which took him to the international stage. Doctrove again made history in 1996 when he became the first Dominican to referee a World Cup qualifier. The FIFA (world football governing body) qualified individual carried the whistle in the Grenada/Guyana encounter in St George's in 1998.
Doctrove believes many others can be elevated to umpire to the highest level of the sport. He listed several key qualities that would-be Test umpires need to have. "There's quite a few qualities that you will have to develop. The most important is your honesty as an umpire, you don't want to go out there to take sides, you want to be regularly reading the laws and keeping updates on the laws of the game because it's an ever changing thing, physical training, you want to be physically fit it helps because when you get tired out there the first that goes is your concentration, you have to have good eyesight, good hearing, patience and a good sense of humour when dealing with players," he recommended.
Doctrove, 43, feels honoured to be chosen as the first Dominican to do Test duties as an umpire. He wants to put on a good showing to blaze the trail for the aspiring domestic officials. "I feel honoured to be Dominica's first Test umpire because I know we had some good umpires previously but they never got that opportunity, so now that I have that opportunity I want to go there and ensure that Dominica's first Test umpire and do a very good job and put Dominica on the map," he remarked. He remains focused and psyched up for the third Cable and Wireless cricket Test between West Indies and Pakistan in St John's from May 25 to 29. New Zealand's Doug Cowie is the other umpire for the third and final Test in the series. "I'm very happy with the improvements that I have made over the years....I'm very happy with the kind of progress that I have made over the years. I think that I have continued to improve every year...I'm very happy with the improvements I have made in terms of decision making and my level of concentration....I'm trying to stay focus, be in good physical condition and be mentally prepared for the game,'' he noted.
He further stated that he has been receiving invaluable advice and support from top present and past regional Test umpires. According to him, he was told that he should treating the St John's game as just as another game in a his 25-year career.
The tall jovial official is hoping his Test stint will not be short-lived and he remains optimistic that more local people would be inspired by his selection to join the under-staffed the Dominica Cricket Umpires Association.
On the question of the constant replay of umpires' decision during Test matches puts match officials under pressure to get it right all the time. "The third umpire and television replays basically puts more pressure on the umpire because every decision you make is scrutinised and bisected from all angles, slow moments, you out there you don't have that benefit so it definitely brings a great deal of umpires in relation to getting your decisions right," he said.
However, he thinks the use of the technology and the television umpire in assisting the umpires in with some of their decisions are good for the game. "I think it helps too, because if for some reason you are not sure of one of those decisions you can call on the third umpire and he can assist you. I know that the technology will be here to stay, I don't believe that we will reach a stage where we will go back to not having the third umpire or television replays. It's a situation we have to live with, we have to live with the pressure we are under now," Doctrove said.
The 43-year-old Government employed Sports Officer has his wife for the> past ten years, Antonillia Doctrove, as his motivator and chief cheerleader.
"Billy has been trying very hard to reach the top and I have been behind him, there are times when I would encourage him when he comes home not feeling that he did as well as he expected. He has been a good husband, doing his best whenever he is at home. I know that he loves umpiring so I have to be there for him every step of the way," she said.
His wife said that she will be among the hundreds of Dominicans expected to leave here for the Test match at the ARG where Doctrove makes his first appearance as a Test umpire.
His father and mother, keen sports people, will not be travelling to St John's with their three sons for the game but they have promised to give their strongest support to their son in his black and white uniform. His mother plans to watch him from the moment he enters the playing on the opening morning of the Test.
"I'm very happy about it. I'm very proud of him. I always pray for his success....Oh! I want to see the first ball, as a matter of fact I want to see when he is going up because I always offer a word of prayer for him every time his umpiring away. I always advise him to pray and put everything in the hands of God," she remarked.
Doctrove is the father of four children Charlie (24), Marissa (15), Bianka (7) and Britnee (2). The two latter girls are with his wife.
Alleyne, a former West Indies Cricket Umpires Association Area Vice-President for the Windward Islands and an umpire for 28 years, has advised his colleague and long time friend.
"Knowing Billy as I do he will give out his best, Billy is the type of person as I always advise him take his game as normal as anything, don't go there and feel because it's Test match, be himself, once he applies himself that way, Billy will definitely do well,'' he pointed out.
Created: Friday, May 24, 1996, 10:27:16 AM