The Men’s Super League kicks off in earnest tomorrow with the big game of the weekend at Neptune Stadium between C&S Neptune and Keane’s Supervalu Killorglin.
In a fast-moving summer of player transfers, Killorglin appointed the former UCC Demons ace Colin O’Reilly to guide them in a player-coach capacity for the coming campaign.
O’Reilly is very experienced and if he can regain his best form will be a big asset to the Kerry club, both off and on the court.
UCC Demons’ withdrawal from the Super League gave Neptune a last-minute reprieve following their relegation from the top flight.
They have replaced former coach Paul Kelleher with Lehmon Colbert and the new chief was quick to sign former Demons point guard Kyle Hosford.
Colbert has also signed a talented Spanish player in Nil Sabata and with Victory Scholar Peter Hoffman a big physical presence, the Cork side could forge a formidable unit.
Colbert believes the season opener will bring a test of his team’s character.
“Killorglin, with the experience of Colin O’Reilly behind them, are bound to be tough. Colin and I have soldiered many years together at Chester and Demons and we know a little about one another.”
The American also appealed for Cork basketball fans to get behind his team throughout the season.
“Having good home support is crucial, as you can see the response they get in all Kerry venues. I am hoping my team get the backing they deserve and I don’t think they will be disappointed with our team this season.”
Champions Garvey’s Tralee Warriors are bound to have a capacity attendance for their home clash against UCD Marian.
These sides met in a thrilling end-of-season showdown back in March, which saw Tralee take two massive wins against the Dubliners to be crowned league champions for the first time.
Last season was a momentous one for the Tralee club and coach Pat Price has once again assembled a quality squad.
American Keith Jumper has returned, and the signing of Daniel Jokubaitis and Ivan Bogdanovic from Killorglin could prove crucial.
Kieran Donaghy could miss the opening games however — as he is committed to playing Gaelic football with Austin Stacks — but they should have enough of firepower to see off the Dublin outfit.
UCD Marian have signed American Brian Andrews, who donned the colours of Kubs in Division 1 two years ago, and he will join resident American Mike Garrow.
The loss of Conor Meany could prove a void too large to fill in the long term, but UCD have the depth to pose the Warriors problems.
Tralee boss Price said: “We’re still finding our way and trying to get in sync with each other. There are lots of new faces and it will take us some time to realise our identity.
“We know Saturday will be a big task, particularly for an opening game, so we’re hoping to get off to a strong start and take advantage of the home support.”
DCU Saints will have a new coach in Mark Kiernan following the retirement of Joey Boylan, and he has stuck with veteran American Mike Bonaparte.
Saints have also recruited former Irish players Charlie Coombes and Kevin Lacey from the disbanded Swords Thunder as they get ready to face a Killester team who have Isaac Westbrooks back in the side.
Belfast Star have reportedly recruited a number of European players as they get ready to host Griffith College Templeogue.
Star also welcome back Keelan Cairns from his spell in Italy while Templeogue have gone for 32-year-old former Neptune American Darren Townes.
“It’s important to get off to a good start and Star in Belfast is a tough place to start,” said Templeogue’s Mark Keenan.
“We will be calling on all of our experience to help us get through this weekend. We had some great battles with Star last season, and I believe they will improve again this year.”
Newly-promoted sides Eanna and Dublin Lions are involved in an interesting Dublin derby as they get ready for life in the fast lane of Irish basketball.
There is also a Galway derby as Moycullen welcome Maree to NUIG, hopeful of toppling their western neighbours.
Maree had a reasonable campaign last time out, and with some quality Irish players in their squad, they could shade this interesting encounter.