By Carlena Knight
Lately, Richie Francis has been known for his contribution to the calypso arena but before he took up the microphone, he was an avid basketball player, having won a number of championship titles locally and regionally.
Francis, who be remembered for his signature ‘Jerry Curl’ hairstyle, was a member of arguably the most successful team in local basketball, Skillville, and was the main shooter for the club, averaging more than 30 points per game. It was because of that sniper mentality why basketball legend and longtime teammate, Carl “Bowlie” Knight believes he is best shooter he’s ever laid eyes upon.
He began his basketball career playing for ‘Lil Niggaz’ a team from the Point/Villa area back in the late 1970s and would even battle against his longtime friend, Knight, with his team FOV Central. A few years later, Francis would team up with Knight and a number of friends from the community under the name Skillville.
Knight said consistency was the key in putting the Villa native above the rest.
“Richie Francis is the best shooter I’ve ever seen. You know, I have seen a lot of great shooters [like] Nyah [Roberts], Marty Huggins of St Kitts but the reason why I would say Richie is the best is because I am dealing with consistency. You see, Richie knew where to take the shots from. He didn’t take long, long three-pointers. He had the range but he knew where to take his shots and of course he had me, too, to put it in the right spot and when I gave him the ball it was money in the bank. He’s the best shooter I’ve ever seen.”
Knight said despite the fact that Skillville had a number of other pure shooters, Francis was always the go-to guy. This practice he said, followed on the senior national men’s team, the Bulldogs.
“Well of course it was not that we didn’t have many branches from the bank on the team because our team had a lot of shooters. You had [Andy] Job [Christian] and even [Maurice] Jomo [Carbon] and my brother [Collin] Prostar [Knight], all these guys, we had a lot of shooters but of course you always have a main shooter and that was Richie not just for Skillville but national wise.”
Francis has won a number of shooting and MVP awards both at the club and regional level back in the 80s and because of his success, the Antigua and Barbuda Basketball Association (ABBA) bestowed the honour in renaming their First Division leading scorer award, the Richie Francis Leader Scorer award.
Despite his age, Francis can still be seen lacing up in the Cool and Smooth Business Basketball League for his workplace, APUA Head Office, still with the signature jump shot.