By Carlena Knight
The local sporting fraternity – especially the basketball arena – is in a state of sadness and grief as they mourn the loss of national basketballer Ryves ‘Keewa’ Merchant.
Merchant played for a number of local teams hailing from the Grays Green community to include West Express, Fast Brothers, Survivors and Braves in the late 80s and early 90s.
He was a former basketball coach in the Ministry of Sports for several years and was attached to schools like Old Road Primary, SR Olivia David Primary, Jennings Primary and Secondary, Urlings Primary, and Antigua State College (ASC).
It is reported that the Gray’s Farm native, who was on duty at the national prison where he worked as an officer, complained of feeling ill on Friday evening. He was taken to Mount St John’s Medical Centre and was later pronounced dead.
There has been no confirmation on what exactly was the cause of death but news of his passing has shocked many who knew him for his cheerful personality and insurmountable skill on the basketball court.
Sports Minister Daryll Matthew posted a brief tribute to Merchant saying “you were my first coach in Golden Grove, and your contribution to the sport of basketball has been phenomenal. Rest well my brother”.
Senator Mary Claire Hurst, who also at one time was a part of the Table officials’ body in local basketball, took to social media to give her condolences.
“He played excellent basketball for country and community. He was a class act. I still see him coming to the scorer’s table inquiring about his stats. What a giant! God had a higher assignment for him and so he has earned his wings as one of his angels. S.I.P my friend,” she stated.
Carl ‘Bowlie’ Knight, former national point guard who played alongside Merchant in the national basketball team, the Bulldogs, and worked alongside him in the Ministry of Sports, also had some kind words about his longtime friend and colleague.
“I’ve known Ryves from way back in the late 70s. As a matter of fact, before there was any ABBA third division, we used to put together a number of teams and Ryves was a part of that; he played for Fast Brothers coming out of Gray’s Farm.
“At that age, he was huge and as the years went by, I saw him with the Survivors team and of course, with Big Banana Express where he really made his career. He was just a monster.
“He looked like a beast when he was on the court and he really was with the way he would pound the boards when he was on the court,” Knight explained.
“He also played on the national team; we actually played some years together and he played a tremendous role for us. We used to call him the ‘Big Ox’,” he added.
Knight says it was his personality off the court that truly left an impression on those around him.
“He was very manners-able, quiet, soft spoken but very intelligent and because of his character I invited him to join us in the Sports and Games Division which was the name at the time and he came in from 1997-2004. He did a tremendous job for us in the school programme.
“Overall, Ryves was just a good person all round. When I got the news of his passing, it really hit home and I just want to say to the family to stay strong and I pray that God will continue to look after them,” he mentioned.
Merchant is survived by his wife and son. He lived in Parham.