TCC towers were awash with excitement this morning when news broke that next season’s secondary FIBA competition, formerly known as the ULEB Cup and the FIBA Eurocup, will feature an Irish select side in the form of Hibernia Basketball, based at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght.
All will agree this is exciting news but this announcement has raised as many questions, some more serious than others, and we thought we would kick off the discussion with the first random 15 questions that came to mind. Disclaimer these questions and answers are a careful blend of wild speculation, guess work and just a touch of actual legitimate information.
1. The first obvious question is who will be on the team?
We know players playing in the MPL and National league are eligible but before this question can be answered there are a few things that need cleared up:
2. Will Non-Eu players (Yanks!) be eligible for the team and if so how many?
Bear in mind that this is a high calibre competition.
The ULEB Cup featured some of the best players in the world. Current champions Khimki Moscow featured players such as Tyrese Rice (now Lebanese, somehow), James Augstine, Victor Claver and Sergei Monia. Next season, Alexey Shved will join the team after leaving the NBA. Other recent winners include Valencia, Lokomotiv Kuban and UNICS Kazan. An all Irish team devoid of American players would not be competitive.
Ok, scratch that, these teams will not be competing in the competition as they will still be in the ULEB ran Euroleague / Eurocup. This is a FIBA run competition and will feature teams like Cantu from Italy and the Asvel from France (Which Tony Parker owns). Still a very high standard.
3. Will Irish players playing professionally overseas such as Paul Dick be ineligible to play?
Yes. They will have FIBA licences and be registered to clubs in countries that have club teams eligible for entry into the competition. They would have to be recruited back to the Premier League, which would, of course, require them to be paid.
4. So who else will be in the team?
Well, obviously a number of Americans, but here we run into a problem: most American imports are swingmen. You cannot create a squad out of American imports. Unless, of course, teams in the Premier League are permitted multiple imports again. If not, how else do you ensure teams recruit guys to play all five spots? Collusion? That all said, the lure of playing in a FIBA competition in an English speaking country (as yet, there is no word that any BBL teams will enter this competition) will surely attract better imports to Ireland. Should the money be there to pay them, of course.
5. Who will coach the team and how will the squad be selected?
The announcement follows hot on the heels of a senior mens’ select team competing in China in the Sino-European Games, where they managed a credible third place finish, defeating the Russian side in their second game. So one would think the same coaching squad may be considered for this role. Bear in mind, however, this competition runs throughout the season. This has all the trappings of a full-time job, particularly if Hibernia qualifies for the group stage. Therefore, should there be a dedicated coaching team which has no other major coaching commitments? Of course this all relates to…
6. When and how often will the team train?
As we have mentioned above this competition runs throughout the season. The other clubs competing will be full time club teams training 5+ times per week. Can we expect to throw a team together which trains once every few weeks and expect to compete? But with regular training it will be impossible to accommodate a schedule that doesn’t clash with club trainings and in that case…
7. Which teams should player prioritise?
A player is selected for Hibernia Basketball but trainings clash with his club training? What about guys with jobs? What happens? No idea but I look forward to finding out!
8. What will the club colours be?
White and Green are the obvious choice but do we want it to look like an Irish international uniform? I don’t think so, I’d like to see black and green like these Notre Dame ones:
9. Who will select the team? When?
Selection committee format or will head coach be in charge? The first game is scheduled to take place at the end of September before the start of the Irish season and so training would need to begin sooner rather than later. With lots of teams not getting Americans in until the season has almost started it’s unclear if they could be integrated in time for any pre season training.
10. What will the club logo be?
A Leprechaun drinking a pint of Guinness on top of a basketball seems the most likely option. Or maybe a Shamrock. We’ll see.
11. How much is this going to cost?
A crucial question. Lack of funds cost Ireland its national team in 2010. It won’t be cheap with Air Travel, Accommodation, Insurance, new gear etc. Initially there will only be the qualifying round to cover but if Hibernia progress to the group stage costs will substantially increase. But you would assume Basketball Ireland have budgeted for Hibernia progressing into the full competition? I mean it’s not as if Basketball Ireland would take an underage Irish international team to an International Tournament, which was the culmination of two years training and preparation, and then book the transport home for before when the final was even scheduled to take place. Imagine if that had of happened and then the team had actually exceeded expectations and reached said final having only to forfeit their place and sheepishly leave the arena to catch a boat. Irish Basketball, you couldn’t make it up.
12. Who is paying for this?
No mention of a sponsor in the Basketball Ireland release so at this stage it assumed there is none. If the money for this is coming directly out of the Basketball Ireland funds questions will be raised bearing in mind the recent history of complaints from local level basketball clubs about excess fees with little to show for it and the current state of the Irish underage international set up with players having to self fund expensive training programs and international trips. Perhaps BI hope the team will fund itself through money raised from tickets sold etc but again, time will tell.
13. Who is going to organise the Ultra’s singing section in the Arena?
We can’t be entering European Club basketball without a flag waving, flare firing singing section. After a stellar performance at this years varsities I’d like to nominate the guys from Cork IT to get it up and running. Equally, the Lithuanian fans who flood the Ambassador’s Cup game in the arena each summer will create a fiery atmosphere.
14. Who are our hated rivals?
Likewise we can’t be entering European Club basketball without someone to hate. With no English team an obvious rival is hard to come by. Open to suggestions….
15. How well will we do?
Not quite sure what the level of teams is in the qualifying group but there is no doubt that at this stage the likes of Khimki Moscow, Valencia, Lokomotiv Kuban and UNICS Kazan would destroy Hibernia no matter how the team is construed. However every journey starts with a single step and what an exciting one this is…