Templeogue's Jason Killeen is looking forward to the new basketball season but speaking at yesterday’s Basketball Ireland launch, he said predicting the league champions would be “very, very difficult to call.”
The Dublin side won the men’s National Cup last season but he pointed out yesterday: “With a week left in the season any of five different clubs could have won the league, which is crazy.
“And I imagine it’s going to be very similar this year, because if anything the standard has gone up since last season — gone up significantly. Even at this stage, when we haven’t played a game, teams are looking at each other and sussing each other out, what they’re capable of.
“We have a great group of guys at present, and we have a lot of younger players in particular who are pushing through.
“When you have a lot of young guys pushing to play it makes practice very competitive, which is what every coach wants.”
Which is not to say that those youngsters can be promoted immediately to the senior ranks, adds Killeen, who coached their U18 team to Cup victory.
“At underage level you’re up against lads your own age, maybe a year older or younger. Then at senior you’re practising against guys in their late 20s or 30s — the gap has gone from a year or two to 10 years, 15 years.
“That’s a lot for the new youngsters to take on board when they come into the senior team first, but it’ll also accelerate their growth as players.”
The challenge for the champions is to repeat, of course.
“That’s it exactly, we just had the draw there and I don’t think we could have had a more difficult draw.
“We got Tralee in the first round of the draw — Templeogue versus Tralee, Demons got a bye so the winners of our game play them.
“That’s a tall order, a big game. But ourselves and Tralee have had some outstanding games in the last few years anyway, before you can even think about that.
“We’re at home to them in the first round and the last time we won the league, two years ago, it was against them at home. We have a good record against them but a real rivalry has sprung up between us in the last few years, and every game between the two teams has come down to the last ten seconds.
“It’s been great — either team can win the game coming into those last few seconds, which shows how close the teams are.”
Killeen says the core of the Templeogue side is much the same as last year, but he’s curious to see how other sides develop.
“Most of the lads we had last year are still there, Michael Bonaparte was huge for us over the last three or four years but he’s no longer playing with the club.
“We have a new American player in, Cortlin Davis, and we’re hoping he’ll fill Mike’s shoes, but that won’t be an easy task.
“I’m very interested in seeing Tralee this year, Kyle Hosford was a big star for UCC Demons but I just found out he’s gone to Tralee. Neptune should be interesting, they’ve rebuilt and put together a great underage programme, and players from that programme are now raring to go at senior level.
“It’s always fun to watch a group of young guys who are intent on going out to cause some upsets.”