Ireland men’s basketball head coach Mark Keenan has said the prospect of Milwaukee Bucks shooting guard Pat Connaughton one day lining out in the green jersey remains a realistic one.
On Tuesday night in Wisconsin, Connaughton was part of a Milwaukee Bucks team that claimed their first NBA Championship in 50 years with a 4-2 play-off series victory over Phoenix Suns. A native of Massachusetts, his paternal grandparents hail from Galway and he has expressed a desire to represent Ireland in the past.
While he won’t be in his squad for the forthcoming FIBA European Championship for Small Countries, set to be held at the National Basketball Arena in Dublin from August 10-15, Keenan is hopeful Connaughton can join his ranks in the future.
“We’ve had communications with Pat over the last two years. I know last year he couldn’t play for the team because of his contractual obligations with the Bucks. He wasn’t allowed, but he was going to come maybe and do some promotional stuff,” Keenan explained at a media day for the European Championships yesterday.
“We haven’t ruled out Pat for obviously getting involved in the future. He’s just won an NBA Championship, it’s fantastic for him.
“That was obviously his focus with the Milwaukee Bucks, but the few communications that we’ve had, he has been positive. He’d love to be involved at some point.”
There is a US-born addition to Keenan’s 12-strong selection for the European Championships, however, with 31-year-old power forward Will Hanley in line to make a senior international debut for his adopted nation.
After graduating from Maine’s Bowdoin College in 2012, the Connecticut man embarked on an eventful professional career that has brought him to the leagues of Spain, Portugal, Japan, France, and Uruguay.
Having previously attempted to sign Hanley at club level, Keenan is thrilled to have him on board for Ireland’s first international competition since 2019.
“I’ve been tracking Will for a number of years now. I tried to recruit him when he was graduating from college and I was coaching down in UL Eagles. I knew at that stage he had an Irish passport.
“He decided to go to Spain that year when he came out of college. I’ve kept in touch with him over the years,” Keenan added.
“I tried to recruit him several times to come to Ireland and I couldn’t get him, but I managed to get to see him in 2019.
“I went to France to see him play when he was in Caen. He’s an experienced professional. Has been playing at a really high level.
“A super guy that is going to slot into the team immediately with his personality. Very excited for him to be coming in.”