Hey everyone. I know this has been a long time coming but I’m finally getting onto this blog thing. I hope you find it interesting.
I got recruited by, and now play for, the University of Pennsylvania (UPENN), NOT PENN STATE, which is located in centre of Philadelphia. UPenn is a Division 1 basketball school and competes in the Ivy League against the likes of Harvard, Princeton etc. As it is an Ivy League school, it is a top 10 academic school in America. But surprisingly, historically, it is also a top 10 basketball program.
You can find a very detailed run down of Penn’s history through that link, but in short Penn has 1676 NCAA wins over the course of its history – putting it in the top 10 on the All-Time wins’ list. The winner of the Ivy League gets a birth in the NCAA tournament or March Madness. Penn has won the Ivy League 25 times and so has been in the tournament 25 times, with the most success coming in 1979 when Penn reached the Final Four.
Anyway, enough of the history.
My freshman year didn’t exactly go as planned as I suffered an injury during the pre-season, which plagued me all year long and followed me into this year. I went through everything the doctors said without much success. So, this year I’m taking a more drastic approach and I am considering surgery to shave off the bulging disc in my back, releasing the trapped nerve inhibiting me. [Editor: Ouch]
Apart from the unfortunate injury and lack of playing because of it, I loved freshman year! I have been able to see, and be a part of, what D1 college basketball is all about. It’s tough. My body has never been tested the way that it was last year. The basketball season is year round and requires 100% commitment. The pre-season 7am starts every morning for two-months are intense. Normally, it consists of lifts and conditioning, followed by individual workouts or team practice. Of course there is between 2-5 hours of school in between with two hours study hall at night to contend with. Oh yeah, then of course there is the social life!
But, I wouldn’t change any of it!
Last year I was lucky enough to have Zack Rosen on my team, a true NBA prospect on my team, who also studied at Wharton business school (top in world). He showed me what it really menas to work hard. Zack is a 6ft (ginger) white guy with next to no athleticism and wasn’t considered much of a prospect coming out of high school but he was easily the best basketball player I’ve ever played with. He controlled every aspect of the game. His performance throughout the season attracted the likes of Doug Collins (76ers Head Coach) to my practices and eventually got him on the Sixers summer league team. Unfortunately he was not drafted but is now playing in Israel, which has great basketball leagues.
As the dynamics of the team have changed with the departure of Zack, this year will be a very interesting one. We have some excellent freshmen coming in this year and I think we are in the position to surprise a few people in the Ivy League this season. Personally, my focus is on getting healthy once and for all and continuing to get my body where it needs to be to play at this level. As a freshman, I weighed 195 pounds (around 14 stone) and I now weigh 230 pounds (16.5 stone) but I’m still not where I need to be. Another freshman on our squad came in weighing 280 pounds (20 stone) and he was 6’11. I’m looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead!
So, there it goes. My first blog post. I hope it was an interesting read. And, unlike Paul Dick, I’m not just in it for the sweet TCC T-Shirt – although an XXL would be nice.
Thanks, TCC followers.
Keelan Cairns is a former Captain of St Malachy’s College Belfast and a product of Queen’s Basketball Club, Lisburn Basketball Club, Belfast Star and Barking Abbey (London). Keelan joined UPenn last year but has been sidelined by injury for the majority of his time in the Ivy League college. TCC are proud to have Keelan involved as a regular blogger where he will be sharing stories of what it is like to be playing at the highest level of NCAA basketball.