FIBA Europe Cup - 1 Week to go!

FIBA Europe Cup - 1 Week to go!

  • Oct 22,2015
On the 24th of September 2005, Ireland were in Aarhus for a EuroBasket qualifier. Conor Grace had scored 13 points a week earlier as the Irish beat Denmark 80-60 in Tallaght, so the home crowd were baying for payback.

They got it through Chris Christofferson. The 7’2’’ centre bagged 18 points and combined well with Nikolai Iversen off the bench to grind out an 87-70 victory.

  

“It was great to get see professional players early in my career and know that it’s not an unreachable standard,” said Grace. 10 years on, the 33 year old will face the same players in the inaugural FIBA Europe Cup.

Ireland-Denmark
The Ireland Team That Played Denmark in 2005. Conor Grace is in the back row on the left hand side.

FIBA have firmly set their sights on surpassing the popularity of football and this new Europa League style format caters for the second-tier of professional basketball teams.

Basketball Ireland received a special derogation to enter a squad of amateur players, so Grace signed on with a sextet of UCC Demons, four more players from Dublin clubs, a trio of Moycullen men and Keelan Cairns of Belfast Star. Hibernia Basketball was born.

The combined club side are in Group F with Tajfun (Slovenia), CEZ Nymburk (Czech Republic) and Bakken Bears – Denmark’s most successful club side. Christofferson and Iverson are on the Bears roster along with another five Danish internationals. They also have a Spanish guard, a Senegalese power forward and an American centre. No pressure then.

Chris-Christofferson“I’m excited for this group to be playing against really high level European teams. I think I have a role in saying to the fellas – this is something you can reach. You can be comfortable at this level,” said Grace who along with Jason Killeen and Colin O’Reilly are the surviving members of the senior International squad, last active in 2009. An official hiatus spelled dark days for Irish basketball.

“When I played my last U16 game for Ireland in 2010, we were told basically that we mightn’t play for our country ever again,” says Roy Downey. The 21 year old can’t wait for Game One on October 28th. There are six players under the age of 23 in the squad and their fearlessness is heartening.

“I’ve never been part of something just to make up the numbers. If you’re going, you’re going to win, like. We’re some of the best players in the country. There’s no reason why we can’t beat any players out in Europe,” says Downey.

Eight of the squad are also building from the Sino-European Championships where a Men’s Premier League select took on FIBA Asia Champions China. It means more commitment from amateur players looking to play at the highest level.

“At the end of the day, you have to feed your family and you have to pay the bills,” says Martins Provizors. The big Latvian calls Swords his home these days. “The biggest problem was trying to make it happen between work and family. But we love basketball. And chances like these don’t come around often.”



Bakken Bears v Hibernia Basketball will be streamed live on www.basketballireland.ie. Tickets for all home games at the National Basketball Arena can be purchased at www.eventbrite.ie
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