Trio Spices Rebels With Caribbean Flavor

By Elizabeth Zaremba

Athletics Media Relations Student Assistant

 

While most of the students at Ole Miss begin a five-week Christmas vacation with their families, the men’s basketball team will be busy on the road with six games away from Oxford.

 

For three Rebels, a Dec. 20-22 holiday tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico, will be extra special, as Kevin Cantinol, Eniel Polynice and David Huertas all have roots in the Caribbean, and each one brings a part of his unique culture to Ole Miss.

 

Freshman forward Kevin Cantinol grew up on the Caribbean island of Martinique and moved to Florida after his sophomore year in high school. Already in the States for over two years, Cantinol has adapted to life in the U.S. and is now adjusting to life in Mississippi.

 

“It’s different, but I miss my friends and mostly the food. My mom use to cook a lot for me,” Cantinol said.

 

When he’s not draining three’s in the Tad Pad, Eniel Polynice is showing off his skills in his mother’s home in the Dominican Republic. Although Polynice was born and raised in the U.S., his family originates in the Caribbean, and he makes a yearly visit to see family and friends.

 

“Basically I play soccer and basketball,” said Polynice. “My mom had a basketball goal sent over there by ship, so I have a goal over there. I play when I visit down there.”

 

One aspect of life in the Caribbean that Polynice misses is the attitude of the people.

 

“I guess because you’re around you’re own people, you don’t have to impress anybody. You can just be yourself,” he said. “Everybody’s just normal. Everybody’s not trying to be fancy or flashy, nothing like that. Everyone is just being themselves.”

 

David Huertas is the last of the trio who, like Cantinol and Polynice, originates from the Caribbean, but has lived the past few years in Florida. Born in Puerto Rico, Huertas is most looking forward to the Rebels’ trip to his home country this December.

 

 “I just miss my family. I see my family maybe once or twice a year because I’m here the whole year,” said Huertas. “This past summer, I took classes the whole summer, so I saw my family maybe two weeks the past year.”

 

If there’s any homesickness for the three, they are not showing it, and Rebel fans are having their fun, as they can be heard yelling “Vamos Rebels” after a made free throw by Huertas. Along with the fans, a particular pre-game song initiates jokes between teammates.

 

“They play the Daddy Yankee song, and they’re all like David, David, that’s your song right there,’ so they like to pick on me,” said Huertas of the Latin-American crossover hip hop artist.

 

And as for the fans and their chant:

 

“I didn’t even know it. I’m normally just focused on the game, but I’ll have to listen for it.”

 

Although the three share a common bond, they do not speak about it often.

 

“We talk about it sometimes. Some of the guys in the locker room ask us to say things to them, so they can understand and things like that,” said Polynice. “I think it’s unique and it’s neat that we have three players that can speak different languages. I think it’s awesome.”

 

The trio agrees that certain aspects, like the food and music, are things that they miss from home, but there are parts of life in Oxford that they know they cannot find in the Caribbean.

 

“The people here are real nice,” Huertas said. “That’s what I love about Mississippi. The people here are real. They make you feel comfortable. That’s why

I like it here.”

 

“Life here is real different, but I like it and I’m adjusting,” added Cantinol.

 

The trio has adjusted to life in the South, but soon they will be able to return the favor and give their teammates a taste of their culture when the Rebels travel to Puerto Rico later this month.

 


 

 

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