UL

UCD Marian Land Eagles in Cup Semi

UCD Marian withstood a third quarter comeback from UL Eagles to book their place in the Men’s National Cup Quarter Final on January 24th.

A Tournament of Reflection – 4th Annual Stuart Robbins Tournament

Puff in action at the Stuart Robbins Tournament

Puff in action at the Stuart Robbins Tournament

Preseason games are ugly. We’ve all witnessed them. Sometimes guys are going too hard to prove how much they’ve worked on their game during the summer. Other guys are trying to blend in and fake coaches into thinking they even picked up a ball over the summer. And other guys are trying to figure out what hell these new sets are that their team is trying to run. Overall, Irish preseason games, from my experience, are ugly, but still, obviously necessary. It is fun to see teams in their infancy stages and then compare them to the finished product at the end of the season. I personally love the teams that get so hyped about preseason wins and then forget about progressing all season. All of that aside, though, the Stuart Robbins’ tournament, which takes place in Limerick, has come to mean a lot to me, and it all really came to fruition this year. Stu Robbins, for anyone who didn’t know him, was a BIG personality, and he left quite a mark on everyone he met here in Ireland. I wasn’t super close to him, but I knew him enough to recognize that he was having a positive effect on Irish basketball. Kids still bring his name up at camps that I’ve worked, and ALL of his friends adored him, which is pretty obvious from the fact that guys from Wales, Germany, and even the States made the trip over to play on the “Stuart Robbins All-Star Team” this year (which I was a part of as well). And because of his effect on so many people here, I will always go down and support it and be a part of it (well, as long as I can handle that full court press those USA Select teams always try to run!).

This year I had a lot of “Whoa” moments down at the tournament. An example of a whoa moment is when someone you coached in primary school comes up to you with a beard and is about 6’5 and says in a deep ass voice, “YOU USED TO COACH ME IN 5th CLASS.” WHOA!  Yeah, so I had a few of those this weekend, but it had nothing to do with my old agedness (thankfully).

Killester could be a team to watch this year with a lot of young new parts

Killester could be a team to watch this year with a lot of young new parts

First of all, the American teams that were over here—the USA Select (you can check it out on usaselectbasketball.com) — Basically they’re a bunch of college graduates who go through a pretty extensive try out process in order to get on an exposure team that comes to Europe in order to get guys contracts as professional basketball players. I was actually a part of the USA Select family back in 2006. I came over to England, and as soon as I landed a team needed a point guard, so I picked up my bags and started my European career. No one back home expected me to play in Europe … or anywhere else. My dream was stupid. I was small. I didn’t play much in college. Blah blah blah. But the guys who ran the USA Select organization, Sean Kilmartin, David Lawrence, and Ricky Pitts, all saw a little something in me, and gave me a chance. I was blessed, and have been ever since. So seeing all three of those guys this weekend really put things in perspective for me and helped me understand that my life could have been completely different. Because I got THAT contract in England, I then ended up in Ireland the next year, where I would meet my incredible wife and mother of my equally incredible daughter. WHOA. So hearing those guys talk about how they remembered me at the try outs and how nervous I was when I had to leave the team and go off with my new team in England made me appreciate how lucky I have been, because a lot of those guys on the team don’t get signed, and while touring Europe is still an amazing adventure for them, sightseeing is not why they chose to come. I got to talk to a lot of the American players as well, and just give them advice and let them know what I’ve experienced. I also realized that being around guys from home makes things easier. If Basketball Ireland ever asked me (and they wouldn’t I know!) why the Superleague (Premier League?) should have more than one American per team, my simple answer would be because being around even one other person that’s where you’re from makes everything so much easier. And when guys feel a bit more comfortable they tend to perform a hell of a lot better—totally my opinion though.

USA Select gives American players the chance to pursue their dream of a professional basketball career.

USA Select gives American players the chance to pursue their dream of a professional basketball career.

Another WHOA moment I had was playing with another American on the All-Star team, Alex Greven. He played at Emory, a DIII school, and was coached by Jason Zimmerman, one of the assistant coaches at Davidson when I was there. He has been touring the UK and Ireland, looking for his first professional gig. Coach Z put him in touch with me, and so I had been doing what I could to make sure he at least got a few looks here in Ireland. Now, I’ve played with about a billion Americans over my career. But playing with Alex was different. He was positive (I know that sounds like no other American I ever played with was positive!), his body language never changed. He played hard every possession. He pointed when someone set one of his buckets up. He was a Davidson player! He went to a Division III school, but had a Division I basketball education, and I appreciated the hell out of his hunger to excel. He repped TCC (Trust, Commitment, Care—our CODE at Davidson) to the fullest, and it just brought to my attention that my time here in Ireland had seen my head coach (Bob McKillop), two of my assistants (Jim Fox and the aforementioned Jason Zimmerman), and old teammate (Jason Richards—now an assistant at Pitt), and two Irish teammates (Michael Bree and Conor Grace), and with Alex a recipient of that same philosophy—all of them had been in this country or had some connection to the country. I think that’s amazing, and it just further reaffirmed my love for this country and my want to help put it on a bigger stage basketball wise—there are so many unbelievable connections that Irish basketball has right at its fingertips! check out his highlight video below:

And finally, just seeing the different approaches that each Superleague (it’s always going to be the Superleague to me) team had during the weekend was fun. The Limerick Eagles, UCC Demons, and Killester were all there, and they all seemed to have very different agendas. Demons lost in the final to one of the USA Select teams, but they were a different look team, looking to play a lot faster, which will be exciting this year. Limerick gave me a WHOA moment because Scott Kinevane, Steve King, and Neil Campbell are their three oldest players this year! Have I been here that long that those dudes are considered “old heads” in the league now? DAMN! And Killester, who obviously grasped my attention because I played there last year, are slowly piecing together a team who could do some pretty big things this year—but it was still weird seeing Jonny Grennell as their coach—he still has some Superleague years left in him somewhere, but that’s a whole new story entirely! All in all, it was a good weekend. And I know I didn’t talk much about the actual basketball that took place during the weekend, but I figured my first piece on Courtside Collective should give all of you readers a sneak peak of just how corny I could be. The end result, though, is that Stuart Robbins’ memory still lives on, and that everyone there came down and played hard and showed their respect to the big fella. THAT was what the weekend was really about.

USA Select - 2013 Stuart Robbins Memorial Tournament Champions

USA Select – 2013 Stuart Robbins Memorial Tournament Champions

Puff Summers is the Owner and Head Trainer for Why Not Me? Hoops, a basketball training service committed to helping players improve. He played for Bob McKillop at Davidson College and has played throughout Europe for 7 years. He has settled in Ireland in hopes of helping continue its basketball excellence. You can reach him on Twitter @WhyNotMeHoops or his website: whynotmehoops.com

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Neptune clip Eagles’ wings in final

Neptune take home the National Cup for the first time in over 20 years

Neptune take home the National Cup for the first time in over 20 years

Bord Gais Neptune have won the Superleague cup final, beating UL Eagles by 20, final score 85-65.

The Cork side started well and their American Darren Townes showed the teams intent to dominate as he threw down a huge dunk over the 6-10 Jason Killeen. Neptune exhibited the running game that made them such a joy to watch in the eighties and nineties, with Townes throwing outlet passes to Ger Noonan and Mike McGinn who did a superb job of scoring.

Townes throwing it down on UL

Townes throwing it down on UL

McGinn was simply dominant throughout the game and already had 18 points at halftime. Neptune extended their lead in the third quarter and despite Townes being benched with 4 fouls, they led 60-45 going into the fourth.

However last year’s champions rallied in the 4th quarter cutting the lead to as little as 8 points. However they would get no nearer and with Townes, Noonan and Mcginn combining to hit nine free throws in crunch time Neptune saw out the win.

McGinn came off with 53 seconds to go to the utter adulation of the crowd. The win ends a drought for Neptune, who had not won a Superleague cup since 1992.

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Photos courtesy of SportShots.eu (be sure to ‘like’ their Facebook page)

UL Huskies retain cup title

UL Huskies are the Womens Superleague cup champions once again. The Huskies saw off stiff competition from Team Montenotte Hotel Cork to claim the victory at the packed out National Basketball Arena in Tallaght.

The Huskies led for almost the entire game, with Cork enjoying the lead for just 14 seconds of the game. The Limerick side started well, leading 22-17 after the first quarter.

James Weldon (UL Huskies) leads his team to victory

James Weldon (UL Huskies) leads his team to victory

However in the manner befitting a Cork side the Lee-siders fought back and a three pointer from Niamh Dwyer at the half time buzzer cut the lead to 33-31.

Grainne Dwyer stamped her influence on the third quarter and along with Tomica Bacic kept the Cork side in the game.

However UL’s stars shone brighter and behind 26 points from Rachel Vandewal and an MVP performance from Michelle Fahy they kept the Cork side at bay to win yet another cup title on a margin of 69-59.

Photos courtesy of SportShots.eu (be sure to ‘like’ their Facebook page)

Rachael Vanderwal Speaks to TCC

More Content from GB v USA but this time with an Irish twist via Canada. UL’s Rachael Vanderwal is representing GB in the 2012 Olympics and the former women’s Superleague player of the year caught up with TCC to share her thoughts on the game vs Team USA, the Olympics and her Irish fans! Check out the video below for the interview.

10 reasons why we love varsities

What is it about the varsities tournament that you love? Is it the basketball? How about the craic? Members of The Courtside Collective have developed a list of 10 reasons why we love the annual tournament. We are already looking forward to next year – who isn’t?

1. Basketball is just the cover story.

2. Student physios

"Lads... my back is really sore... would you mind?"

3. Referees who finally make the right call… ‘Taxi’

4. Logging onto Facebook to find you’ve been tagged in 600 photos, all taken by the quiet rookie on your team.

Typically the photos aren't the most flattering

5. “Honestly, I am eligible. I’m doing a part-time bar-tending course.”

6. The Varsity ball – might as well be held in a warehouse with a carryout and an iPod dock.

At least he is still wearing his tie

7. 8-minute quarters… Feels like 10

8. Accidentally watching a ‘B’ league game

The 'B' league - where amazing seldom happens

9. You’ve made new friends but you won’t remember their name until they add you on Facebook

10. It happens every year

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s), and do not reflect in any way those of the The Courtside Collective of which he/she is a member.

UUJ win the 60th Varsities

It was a tremendous weekend for Northern Ireland basketball as the UUJ men’s team went undefeated at the inter-varsities. This year’s tournament was held at the top quality sports facility at the University of Limerick, unquestionably the best basketball facility on the Island. The UUJ side competed in a tense final against UCD who boasted the talented James’ brothers and the ultra competitive [Editor: and über animated] Kevin Foley at the head coach position.

UUJ Men

The game was close throughout but UUJ maintained their fourth-quarter lead to come out victorious thanks to clutch shooting by Letterkenny native, Aodhan Hickey, which included a deep three-pointer and a pair of free-throws [Editor: Does this mean he will finally shake the nickname ‘rookie’ to something a bit more flattering, say ‘clutch’ for example?]. A top-class and all-around quality performance from Paddy McGaharan [Editor: I wish it was in the genes – it’s not] spurred the co-captain, and final year student, onto a game-high 19-points. The 6’0 two-guard from Belfast was later announced as the Most Valuable Player of the game.

As always, it was a wonderfully enjoyable weekend, both on and off the court, for the five teams from N.I; QUB, UUJ and BMC. The Varsities tournament is notorious as one of the best events on the Irish basketball calendar [Editor: I agree…but what exactly about the weekend do people love so much?]

Match Report

Conor James opened the scoring for the Men’s A final from the free throw line as a result of Aodhan Hickey’s reaching foul. Both teams showed their fine shooting touch from outside as both sides exchanged 3 pointers. Paul Cummins converted his ‘and one’ to give UUJ a narrow lead (11-10) after 5 minutes. Enda Walsh (UCD) provided some interior presence for the Dublin team and was able to draw fouls on UUJ’s Conor Johnson. Daryl Shazier (UUJ) seen the quarter out with a contested three to give the Northern university a six point lead, 21-15.

Daryl Shazier continued his hot hand by opening the second quarter with another three. Defensive stops gave UUJ the upperhand whilst UCD moved to a 3-2 zone to try and null the outside shooting ability of UUJ. Paddy McGaharan hit a pair of jumpers to extend UUJ’s lead to 28-19 and saw UCD Head Coach Kevin Foley call a time out to re-organise his team. Dan James attacked the UUJ defense and scored some heavily contested shots to bring back UCD within four points. Daryl Shazier returned the six point cushion to see the first half finish 37-31.

The third quarter began with both team trading baskets but Conor Johnson (UUJ) hit a big three with five minutes left in the third quarter to put his side up by seven points. Paddy McGaharan battled hard on offensive boards which resulted in a converted layup. Defensive stops by UCD lead by Conor James seen the lead slip to just three points. UUJ lead 48-45. The final period opened with both teams increasing their intensity lead by UCD’s Elliot Saint-Gilles going coast to coast through traffic for the floater. Aodhan Hickey responded with his own floater as he soared over the UCD defence.

Co-captains with cup

Aodhan continued to torment the UCD defence by scoring a huge 3 with Dan James hand in his face to put UUJ up five points. Cathal Finn (UCD) scored five consecutive points to make it an even game with 1.09 on the clock, 61-61. Conor Johnson hit the game winning three with 40 seconds to go to. UCD had a chance to take the last shot of the game but a costly turnover and foul sent Aodhan Hickey to the line. Aodhan Hickey connected on both shots to confirm the trophy was returning to Belfast. The final score finished 67-61 and Paddy McGaharan was awarded the game’s MVP.

Undefeated throughout the tournament

Source: Basketball Ireland [Editor: more specifically… thanks to Conor Lilly – happy now?]