About Author

About

Tony McGaharan

Tony started playing basketball when he was 11, after realising that he couldn’t kick a ball. Enjoying every opportunity to be around the game, Tony has been a player, scorekeeper, referee, coach and MC. In 2009, he coached women's basketball in Sweden for a season with the Umeå Comets (now bought over by Udominate). He then returned home and worked with PeacePlayers International, which uses the game to bring young people together from divided communities. Tony has since taken on a role in Google and has worked in Dublin and Singapore. He is now based out of London, playing for a local London D2 team, the United Nations Basketball Club.

Point guard: 14 year-old Odhrán Eastwood

Odhrán Eastwood is one of the only players I remember during my first summer coaching in Queen’s Basketball Club’s annual camp. He was 7 years old. Today, Odhrán is competing for a spot on the Irish U16 team for the 2013 Euro Championships. He is without question the most talented player on the Queen’s U16A team. Odhrán’s determination to succeed as a basketball player, his commitment to his team and his willingness to learn from his coaches (currently, the experienced Adrian Fulton and the energetic Gavin Garland) is why we, The Courtside Collective, believe he is one of the best point guards in Northern Ireland.

The Story

Odhrán showing he can go past you right or left

It was 2004 and I was given my team-list for camp, which read: Squirrels.  As you can probably guess, this squad wasn’t an U16, u14 or even an u12 team: it was under 10! I wanted to make sure all of these young players left camp with an enthusiasm for basketball while maybe developing a little bit of ‘touch’ and a basic understanding of the fundamentals: shooting/passing/dribbling/defence. From the first day of camp it was obvious that one player, who happen to be the youngest on the team, was two steps ahead of his peers.

Several years on from that camp, Odhrán Eastwood is growing up to be a tremendous athlete: representing Queen’s Basketball Club at U16A while also playing for his school team, the reputable St Malachy’s College Belfast. He was  recognised as the MVP of his club team lat year and plays an integral part on the St Malachy’s U16 team, who continue to advance in the All-Ireland U16 schools’ competition.

Each time I get a chance to see Odhrán in action, I am reminded of how fun he is to watch. He loves to run. [Who doesn’t want to watch fast-paced, up and down basketball? It’s the best type of hoops!] At every opportunity, he is charging down the middle of the floor attacking the defence at their most vulnerable, all the while analysing his options: pass ahead to a guard for a lay-up, attack the hoop or drive and kick. His teammates know that when they are on the floor alongside Odhrán, he will find them – if they run.

Basketball is not Odhrán’s only forte; he is also competing at a high level on the soccer and Gaelic football pitch. Coach Adrian Fulton hopes that Odhrán continues to invest in basketball:

 

The young PG recognises that success will only come as result of hard-work and perseverance. Speaking with Odhrán, his ambitions are obvious – he wants to play at the highest level he can, hoping to follow in the footsteps of Paul Dick, Ben Horner and Adrian Fulton by both representing Ireland and playing in the U.S. I caught up with Odhrán to ask him a few questions about who he thinks is the best player, his role-models are and what he hopes to achieve in the future:

 

What is your favourite thing about basketball?

Just playing a lot. I really like playing in big games because of what’s at stake. I love playing at a high level because I know that it will help improve my game. Also, playing with older players in Queen’s [Basketball Club] and St Malachy’s [College Belfast] is really good because you learn so much from them.

Who inspires you?

I’d have to say Adrian Fulton and Paul Dick because they have all played basketball at the international level. Paul went to St. Malachy’s and then went to America which shows me that it can be done. Mr Fulton has played internationally and is now my coach so I know that anything he tells me is worth listening to! Of course all my coaches have inspired me in some way. Gavin Garland, Fergus Donnelly and others are all big inspirations too!

What is your favourite thing to do on the court?

Run the fast break! My speed is probably one of my strengths and I try to use it so my team gains an advantage. I’ll try and push the ball up the floor so my teammates or I can get easy lay-ups in transition.

Who is your favourite player ever to come from Northern Ireland?

Not sure about this one. I’d probably have to say… Mr Fulton or Gavin, Garland because they are both guards and small like me – but don’t tell them I said that! [Editor: Don’t worry Odhrán: I’m sure they know their height] Mr Fulton has played internationally, which I want to do, and I know I can learn from both him and Gavin. Keelan Cairns, Paul Dick, Ben Horner are there also because they have played [or are playing] in America and they are from Belfast, which has shown me that playing overseas in the states is a possibility!

Who do you most like having on your team?

Shooters who can run the floor because I think that if I use my speed and push the ball up court, I can get my teammates easy lay-ups. If we can’t get a quick bucket then I’ll try to get the shooters a good shot in the offense. It’s always good to play with big players as well who rebound.

What are your future goals?

Hopefully, to be selected for the Irish team for the 2013 Euros! [Editor: Odhrán is currently on a panel of 18 for the Irish U16 team]. I would like to play in America like Ben and Paul, but that’s way down the line! I’ll keep playing no matter what happens.

The Courtside Collective wish Odhrán all the best in his aspirations to represent Ireland and, like Adrian Fulton, we hope he continues to invest in becoming a better basketball player.

Coming soon: This week, and next, we will be presenting a feature on the two teams from Belfast, St Malachy’s College & St Mary’s CBS, who will be competing for All-Ireland Schools’ Championships in the coming month.

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Over the course of the next few months, I will be interviewing some of the best point guard’s in Northern Ireland, as chosen by the team at The Courtside Collective. We will be focusing on PG’s from throughout the province and across the different leagues, including (but not limited to) U13 Girls, U16 Boys (inc. the development league), the Women’s League, Men’s Premier League and even some of the legends of Northern Ireland playmakers.

Who do you think should feature in The Courtside Collective’s best PG’s? What would you like us to ask them? We welcome any and all your suggestions (even if they are ridiculous). Use comment section below or click here to contact our team directly.

Matt McColgan: the ‘glue’

Matt Colgan, a current Ulster Elks starter, is a great player to have on your team. He does the little things: sets good screen, crashes the boards and is comfortable guarding bigger players on the block or quicker guards on the perimeter. The other thing about Matt is that he used to be short – real short. Now however, as Matt celebrates his 24th Birthday, he is a deceptively long-armed, and well-respected, 3/4 man. Matt has played two years in the USA; at a private school in NY, Doane Stuart, and for a D3 college near Philadelphia, Cabrini College.

Deirdre Brennan, Matt’s coach from the Ulster Elk’s Superleague days, referred to him as a ‘glue player’. What is a glue player, I hear you ask?

Andrew Thell, from ‘Empty the Bench’, sets out a good criteria for how exactly we should determine whether a player fits the definition:

We all use the term, but everybody’s definition of a “glue player” is different, so I was forced to come up with a few of the rules when generating this list. First, players who are among their team’s top two scorers were not considered. Those are the team’s stars. Second, the glue player must be solid defensively, so no three-point specialists or instant offense guys have been included. Third, this award is about generally unsung heroes whose play leads to team success, so only the guys on playoff-caliber teams are included’

(Read more: click here)

For those of you that don’t know Matt or haven’t seen him play. He has pretty decent hops – of course it helps when your arms operate like go-go-gadget. Don’t believe me? Go see for yourself on Thursday night in UUJ as Belfast Star take on the Ulster Elks (8.15pm tip-off).

On that note, I’ll leave you with a terribly poor quality clip of a high quality play from Matt.. ironically, against Belfast Star a few years back in 2008.

From all of us at The Courtside Collective, Happy Birthday Matt.

 

 

Point guard: Paul Dick


Paul Dick is arguably one of the greatest players to come out of Northern Ireland. Having played for basketball powerhouse St Malachy’s College Belfast, he later spent a year at a prep school in the U.S. and is now on scholarship in the States at Franklin Pierce (NCAA D2). Although injuries have him sidelined, he remains focused on rehabilitation and getting back on top.

The Story

For many of us, injuries can be a nuisance. The physical limitations which prevent us from our daily tasks can be overwhelmingly frustrating; taking us an extra few minutes to get into work, preventing us from hitting the town or, heaven forbid, forcing us to miss a game of squash (stay with me… I’m going somewhere with this).
Paul Dick, a 20-year-old in the prime of his life (not to mention his basketball career), is stuck to a reclining red leather arm-chair in the living room of his family home in Belfast, with two metal poles by his sides, watching Mad Men, series 3… in its entirety. His trapped state is exemplified in a recent online update,

‘Here’s the situation; watching 24 and Jack’s about to save the day, but the battery’s in the DVD remote are broke and my crutches are at the other end of the room and my knee’s too sore to crawl on from I don’t know what…so anyone want to come over to put on the next episode? #seriousrequest’

What should Paul be tweeting right now? I’d imagine it would be something like this; ‘Just dropped 18 points and dished out 5 assists. #breakingankles’

 Pre-Game

Paul Scoring against Emory (Atlanta, NCAA D3)

Paul is currently receiving a full scholarship from Franklin Pierce; an NCAA Division 2 school in New England. “It’s actually a crazy story how I got there…” No kidding. And, we’ll get to that. But let’s start with the pre-game.

Basketball is in Paul’s DNA. His father, Francis, was an Irish Superleague player back in the 80’s while Breda, Paul’s mother, grew up in Dublin and was among one of the founding members of the notably successful Killester Basketball Club. Paul describes his first experience of basketball as a youngster in St Anne’s Primary School: “My mum ran a programme there. Then I moved onto Queen’s [Basketball Club] on Saturday mornings.” Although Paul tried his hand at Gaelic games, swimming and football, he prioritised his commitment to basketball recognising his love and talent for the game. (However, Paul’s sister informed me that he used to dream that he could be Like Mike… Michael Flatley that is!)

Winning the trophy for St Malachy's College

At the age of 11, When it came to deciding which high school Paul should attend, it was obvious he would join his father’s alma mater, St Malachy’s College; perhaps the best high school basketball programme in Ireland, with the silverware to prove it. It would be here that Paul would develop his skill set and knowledge of the game under the guidance of two veteran coaches; former Irish International, Adrian Fulton, and the Gandalf of Irish School’s basketball, Paul McCrory.

Comeback Kid

When I asked Paul to describe his favourite on-court moment, he shared a story of playing overseas with his old school team in the World High School Championships (2007); telling his own classic version of David and Goliath… well, almost.

“It was our first game against Slovakia. This team averaged probably 6’6 and I was our tallest player. We were up by about 7 points the whole game but then with 5 seconds left we were down by 3. They had the ball at the top of the key and Doc [Michael Dougherty] angled his player right into me. I knew Doc was going to do this; so I stepped up and stole the ball at our free-throw line. I was dribbling up the court with 3 seconds left, took two dribbles over the half-court line and just let it fly [Gets excited]. It went in! I went crazy and ran over to the fans, started my pounding my chest and stuff and then… we lost in Overtime. [Laughs]”

Father & Son: Paul and Francis

The American Dream

However, it was during another high school basketball trip, this time across the Atlantic, as a 17-year-old he would come to realise his desire to play in the US.

“…we were playing this inner city team in New York and at that time I was thinking of joining the [Irish] Superleague to play there. But, we played this one team and I played pretty well. Their coach had won an NCAA Championship with UConn. He pulled me over after the game and just talked with me, encouraging me to come over and play in the states. We travelled around and played different schools and some of them were interested in me in coming there to play. That made me lean towards wanting to go. I came home and started talking to my Dad about it.”

Finding an American prep school for Paul would prove challenging, testing both his commitment to the dream and his Father’s perseverance in helping a son achieve his goals. Georgetown Prep, a school in Philadelphia and another in North Carolina were all considered as possibilities but each of these options (plus a few others) fell through. As Paul’s friends were deciding on which universities in Ireland and the UK to attend, he found himself losing hope on his ambition of playing ball in the U.S.

“It was around the 20th August (2009) and I’d kind of given up on going to America to play. I was working for my Dad in his factory and he called me into the office. He said, ‘I think you need to go and get a visa tomorrow; I think I’ve got you a school.’ I was like, ‘alright.’ [Smiles]”

Within four days Paul was in the U.S; joining Bridgton Academy, a prep school in Maine, New England. However, there were some minor details he didn’t discover until he actually got there. The fact that he was moving to another all-boys school was not one of those minor details.

“I was disgusted [laughs].”

Much in the clutch

That wasn’t the only problem he faced that year. In December (2009), during his year in prep school, Paul suffered an injury (a broken right foot) that would prove costly as he focused on taking the next step – U.S. College Basketball. Paul looked to advance from Bridgton, a top basketball prep school, to an equally high level programme at the Division 1 level in the NCAA.

“I had been playing well at the start of the year but after Christmas, it just started to go downhill. I was hoping to go play at a higher level. Franklin Pierce wasn’t my first option. Those other schools started to lose interest as I was playing worse.”

It was the ‘4th quarter’ and Paul was feeling the pressure; he had already booked flights home, where he would then have to go through a late application to attend university at home. It wasn’t until after the season, around April (2010) Paul was offered an invitation to visit Franklin Pierce and later accepted a full scholarship.

Paul is now mid-way through his 2nd year ‘playing’ college basketball in the U.S., how is he performing?

“I haven’t played yet. Last season, I was recovering and tried to play a few games but they didn’t go well at all. I didn’t play the rest of that year [2010-2011]. Then, when I went back in September [2011], I had broken my other foot… “

Ouch. Not again.

Having broken his foot during his prep school days, Paul would have to face the consequences of another broken foot – this time the other one! Can you imagine? Forget about the squash game. This is NCAA college basketball. We are talking about an athlete (no offence squash players) who has trained for years to reach this level only to be told he is going to have to wait it out, again. How do you deal with that?

“I’m coping [Smiles]. I just have to stay positive. I have the confidence since my last foot healed perfectly. It’s just a matter of time. I just have to be patient.”

What’s next?

 “Get healthy and have a good season. I like to score the basketball so I’d like to average a nice number. Have a good time and enjoy college life.”

Paul is content where he is (for now) but is looking forward to getting back on the court (no, not the squash court). In the meantime, he is happy to be home with family and friends. Finally, for all those young players that want to aspire to playing college basketball, Paul has some tips for you:

“The biggest thing is to round your game. Being from Ireland, we’re not the most naturally quick, can’t jump the highest and so, you can’t float by with a mediocre shot or a mediocre handle…Never mind dunking it…”

 No dunking? No problem.

 

Bringing down the house

Last Wednesday, I made the trip across town to St Malachy’s College Belfast hoping to see a battle between Belfast Star and Kilkeel Knights. The last time these two teams met, Belfast Star’s depleted squad couldn’t handle the strong Lithuanian side and Kilkeel came out on top, with a convincing win (87-70).

I arrived 15 minutes late for tip-off… or so I thought. I had no idea what was going on as I entered the gym; both teams were just shooting around (casually) at their respective ends of the court. Upon first glance, it appeared the game was just delayed (for whatever reason) but when I figured it out, it was clear there was no game being played in the historic St Malachy’s gym.

Here’s why:

As it turned out, during the warm-up one of the Kilkeel players (prefers to remain anonymous – probably) was dunking it a little too hard. Apparently, this isn’t the first time the Malachy’s rim’s have been attacked. Rumour has it, Matthew Jackson (currently playing in Liverpool for John Moore’s University) has brought down the basket. To be honest, I didn’t even realise he could dunk it.

St Malachy's Broken Rim

All joking aside, I do hope that St Malachy’s are able to get the hoop fixed ASAP. It’s not particularly helpful for the St Malachy’s players who are preparing for Cup Finals at the end of the month.

On a more positive note, it is great to see that Belfast Star are able to find the funnier side of what was a disappointing incident. Not exactly sure who controls the Facebook for Belfast Star but this is classic (albeit, a little unrealistic – nothing personal, C.J.)

Status update the night of the 'attack'

Point guard: the best of…

As a basketball player growing up, I always loved shooting the ball (who doesn’t?). I used to spend my entire lunch break on the bottom playground of Lagan College Belfast (my alma mater) shooting around and playing pick-up basketball with friends. Those were the good ol’ days – I’m turning 25 this year, and I think I’m having a pre-mature mid-life crisis. It wasn’t until I left school that my love for shooting was surpassed by another skill; passing.

PG's have to see the floor

Have you ever seen Steve Nash throw a no-look pass; driving into the key with the sole intention of drawing the defence and dishing it off to a slashing teammate? Or, have you witnessed Jason Kidd orchestrate a fast-break like he was the conductor of a world-class symphony? Or, maybe you’ve seen Ciaran McVeigh thread-the-needle on a pass like he was an award-winning mathematician; working out every angle while calculating the velocity and distance of the type of pass needed in a split second?

If you have no idea what I am talking about, check out the top 10 from my favourite PG in the world: Steve Nash.

Over the course of the next few months, I will be interviewing some of the best point guard’s in Northern Ireland, as chosen by the team at The Courtside Collective. We will be focusing on PG’s from throughout the province and across the different leagues, including (but not limited to) U13 Girls, U16 Boys (inc. the development league), the Women’s League, Men’s Premier League and even some of the legends of Northern Ireland playmakers.

Who do you think should feature in The Courtside Collective’s best PG’s? What would you like us to ask them? We welcome any and all your suggestions (even if they are ridiculous). Use comment section below or click here to contact our team directly.