Jaggernauth hopes playing for Guyana will be his breakthrough

Talented Randy Jaggernauth has had a brief and troubled basketball career, but may get an opportunit

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Randy Jaggernauth has a wide array of tattoos, including one that says “Blessed” in large letters on his left upper arm.

As he took a break from shooting around on Monday at Jerry Burrell Park on Hamilton Street, though, what stood out was a long string of tiny beads.

In an orderly alternating pattern, the colors repeat over and over — red, black, yellow and white — the colors that appear on the pennant of the green flag of Guyana.

The simple necklace, a gift he received in Guyana, hardly qualifies as serious bling, but it has deep meaning for the 22-year-old, who has spent most of his life on Hamilton Hill, but suddenly finds himself drawn to the small country on the north coast of South America.

Jaggernauth doesn’t necessarily feel a strong bond to the country itself yet, but because his parents, Mohan and Shantie, were born there, Guyana offers Randy Jaggernauth an opportunity to assemble some continuity in a basketball career that so far has been marked by disjointed fits and starts.

After playing in some games there in late winter in what amounted to an initial tryout for the Guyanese national team, Jaggernauth is scheduled to fly back to Guyana a week from Monday for another round of games for national team coach Robert Cadogan.

As a member of the Guyanese national team, the Schenectady High School graduate could play in some prestigious tournaments next year that are attended by college and pro scouts, thus giving him some badly needed exposure and keeping alive his hope to play college ball.

“I really had no basketball,” Jaggernauth said. “It looked like the end of the road.

“I was just trying for some type of opportunity.”

Jaggernauth, a 6-foot shooting guard who Cadogan wants to mold into a point guard, has bounced around different high schools and community colleges, including Niagara County and Adirondack in Queensbury.

After quitting ACC late in the season in a dispute with head coach Bill Haskell over playing time, Jaggernauth was just about out of options.

He contacted the Guyana team, sent along a short YouTube clip and got an inv­itation to play some games in February. That led to another invitation to play later this month, when he will join Cadogan’s team in time for the final of the newly formed National Community Basketball League, followed by a gala and clinics conducted by the likes of the Indiana Pacers’ Darren Collison, whose parents were track stars for Guyana.

After the NCBL game, Jagger­nauth will stay for some games in an all-star tourn­ament.

An even bigger objective on the hor­izon is the FIBA-sponsored 22nd Caribbean Basketball Confederation (CBC) tourn­ament, which brings together 24 Caribbean national teams, in 2013.

“I went in there confident, went down and did well, and when I told my mom, she was more happy than I was because I felt like it was just a beginning,” Jaggernauth said. “It’s not even a start.”

“In fairness, I only got to see him two games, but he’s got a pretty decent game,” Cadogan said by phone from Guyana. “I met his parents, and all I can say is I had a couple dialogues with them. He had some trouble. Of what magnitude, I don’t know, but they’re glad Randy can be involved in Guyana.”

Jaggernauth went through the requisite culture shock — basketball and otherwise — upon his first visit to Guyana, which has medaled three times at the CBC, but has never won the tournament since it began in 1981.

Cadogan characterized the Guyanese teams as mostly made up of steal-oriented smaller players who are a mixture of native-born Guyanese and overseas imports like Jaggernauth and Keron McKenzie, who played college ball at Savannah State and Division II Armstrong Atlantic State.

“My parents were born there, and they love it there,” Jaggernauth said. “I kept asking people, what’s it like out there. They kept telling me you’ve got to see it to answer for yourself. Everything’s going to be an eye-opener. It was. I saw people sleeping on the ground, in the middle of the capital city, right next to the main street.

“Like, this is bad, this area is bad, but over there, it’s a whole different bad. They really don’t have a lot. We take a lot for granted over here.”

Jaggernauth said he tried to apply to most of the private schools in the Capital Region, “but nobody accepted me,” and he wound up at Redemption Christian Academy, where he played for two seasons, then transferred to Schenectady, but didn’t play basketball for the Patriots.

He bounced around the community colleges and said that he now regrets how his time at ACC ended.

“Me and the coach never saw eye-to-eye, and we ended up on bad terms,” he said. “I wasn’t man enough to really talk to him face-to-face after our incidents. I tried to apply to, like, a hundred schools, e-mailing and sending my tape, and none of them showed any type of interest after I quit the team and having no good basketball history.”

That makes it all the more important to him to make a good impression with the Guyana team.

Cadogan said Jaggernauth needs to get stronger and work on his conditioning, as well as make the trans­ition to point guard.

“He is a pure shooting guard,” Cadogan said. “I’ve seen him play, and he has ability.”

To help him convert to point guard, Jaggernauth has been working out with his boyhood friend, Mark Lyons, the former Schen­ectady High School star who graduated from Brewster Academy in New Hampshire.

He has also leaned on the continued support of friends D.J. Jones and Steph­anie Reid.

Lyons, who is scheduled to attend Deron Williams’ camp in Chicago next week, is making a similar transition, having transferred from Xavier to play one post-grad season at Arizona to improve his NBA draft stock.

“He’s a great shooter. If you leave him open, he’s going to knock down shots,” Lyons said. “It’s been a roller coaster for him. A lot of times, he’d call me because he was down and out, and I told him not to give up. I always had to tell him to stay with it. You never know what’s going to happen. The more you work, the further you’re going to get.”

“A lot of people don’t really root for people who keep failing, but those three people that I kept around, that stayed with me, they’re sticking with me,” Jaggernauth said.

Now Jaggernauth has to keep improving and compelling Cadogan to bring him back to Guyana, each trip a bead that could create something bigger.

The CBC tournament, which can be a steppingstone to the Pan Am Games, promises more intense competition and better talent, and with it, wider scrutiny from higher levels of coaches and scouts.

For instance, the Jamaican national team includes Patrick Ewing Jr., former Louisville big man Samardo Samuels of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Jerome Jordan, who played in 21 games with the New York Knicks this season. U.S. Virgin Islands coach Milton Barnes is a scout for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“It’s a lot of exposure,” Cadogan said. “Scouts from the U.S. come down for the tournament so they can stock talent. It’s definitely going to be a good experience. It’s going to be pretty competitive to make the final team. We try to attract as many good players from in and out of Guyana as we can.”

“I’ve always made the wrong dec­isions, going to schools and all that, but for some reason, me and him clicked,” Jaggernauth said of Cad­ogan. “I messed up, but he had faith in me to keep going, he didn’t take me out of the game, he let me learn. I like him. He’s friendly. They’re welcoming down there.

“I was happy, but like I said, it’s just a beginning.”

Basketball doesn’t always provide the most durable of threads, but that, and his parents and friends, are what Jaggernauth has right now.

Perhaps if he can string together some success, a circle will be complete.

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