Basketball Ireland to induct four people into B.I. Hall of Fame
January 28, 2020
Basketball Ireland has today announced that four people will be inducted into the Basketball Ireland Hall of Fame at a special ceremony later this year.
Currently there are 12 B.I. Hall of Fame members – Fr. Joe Horan, Harry Boland, Tom Collins, Liam McGinn, Danny O’Connor, Paul Meany, Siobhan Caffrey, Danny Fulton, Liam McHale, Susan Moran, Paudie O’Connor and Kelvin Troy.
Nominations were made by the public, with an independent nominations committee announcing the four final recipients today who are: Michelle Aspell, Caroline Forde, Noel Keating and Tom Wilkinson.
“We are delighted to announce that four more people will be inducted into the Basketball Ireland Hall of Fame this year,” said CEO of Basketball Ireland, Bernard O’Byrne. “2020 is a significant year in the history of Irish basketball, as it marks the 75th anniversary of the organisation and we are really looking forward to this induction ceremony as being a key part of the anniversary celebrations. All the recipients are delighted to be honoured and it should be a memorable occasion for all involved.”
Chairman of the Board of Basketball Ireland, Paul McDevitt, and President of Basketball Ireland, Theresa Walsh also extended their congratulations to the four recipients and their families.
BASKETBALL IRELAND HALL OF FAME CLASS 2020
Michelle Aspell is roundly considered the greatest women’s Super League player of the noughties for her exploits with Waterford Wildcats, UL and Ireland. A native of Kilcullen, Co Kildare, Aspell won three Player of the Year awards (2004, 2005 and 2008), six Super League titles (three with Wildcats from 1997 to 1999, then another three in a row with UL from 2003 to 2005), five National Cups (1998 and 2000 with Wildcats, 2003, 2004 and 2006 with UL), and four old Top Four National Championships (three with Wildcats, one with UL). Her consistency was astonishing; for 13 consecutive seasons she featured in every National Cup semi-final weekend and only once failed to reach the end-of-season semi-final stage – and even in that 2008 season she ended up as Player of the Year.
With her exceptional dynamism and guile, she was the outstanding scorer of her era. When UL won three consecutive Super Leagues in the mid-noughties, she averaged a remarkable 28 points a game in each League or Top Four final, while over the seven National Cup finals she played in from 2002 to 2009 (the last two, back with Wildcats), she’d average 21 points. She was also a stalwart for her country before finishing off with a game-high 18 points in a home win over Holland in 2009 which proved to be Ireland’s - as well as her - last game at Eurobasket qualification level.
Michelle has continued to be actively involved in basketball since stepping away from the Super League level 10 years ago. Along with former UL coach Tony Hehir, she helped found Limerick Celtics who now participate in the national league and has coached numerous underage teams like Crescent College to All Ireland A schools titles.
Caroline Forde is one of the greatest backcourt players Irish basketball has ever produced, starring both in the national league and for the national team.
Playing alongside her sisters Miriam and Annette (both RIP), she was the catalyst for their home club Blarney becoming a powerhouse on the national stage, winning the 1985 U19 National Cup (when she scored 30 points) and then at senior level, three National Leagues (1989-91), two National Cups (1987 and 1991) and two old Top Four National Championships (1989 and 1991). She also went on to be instrumental in the success of two other teams, winning a Super League, Cup and Top Four with Lee Strand Tralee and then helping Waterford Wildcats to a Super League title in 1996 before finishing her playing career back with Blarney.
As well as being a fantastic playmaker and team player, she was a phenomenal scorer, both from the outside and through driving to the basket, setting all kinds of individual records. The 41 points she scored in the 1991 Top Four final overtime win over Wildcats remains the highest score by a player in a premier senior women’s national final. She was twice Cup final MVP (scoring 29 points in Blarney’s 1987 triumph and 22 for Tralee in a two-point win over Naomh Mhuire in the 1993 decider).
She also excelled for Ireland, playing over 100 times for her country, and starring in such campaigns as the 1988 Olympic qualifiers in Malaysia when she averaged 16 points a game against the likes of Canada and Italy.
Noel Keating is one of the most influential administrators in the history of Irish basketball, having the distinction of being the governing body’s first full-time Chief Executive and a driving force behind the building of the National Basketball Arena and the establishment of the National Cup.
A native of Carlow, Keating first came onto the national executive through his involvement in mini-basketball and primary schools basketball, and in 1979 served as national Press Relations Officer. However, after his leadership in resolving the two-American Killarney issue at the end of that year, he was promptly elected to president (1980-82) before then being appointed as the association’s first-ever CEO, a job he would occupy from 1983 to 1996. During those years, he would help propel and oversee the huge growth and modernisation of the sport in this country. It was Keating, though still only national PRO, who convened a meeting in November 1979 to discuss the concept of a national arena, something which would he would eventually help and see get over the line more than 13 years later, in January 1993. He was also pivotal in identifying the appeal of a knock-out-competition and securing it sponsorship and live television coverage, and thus we’ve had a National Cup since 1984, and every subsequent finals televised live nationally.
Although Keating would step away from the workings of Basketball Ireland upon stepping down as CEO in 1996, he would still remain a passionate advocate for the promotion of the sport in primary schools, only retiring last year as chairperson of the Dublin primary schools board.
Tom Wilkinson is one of the most decorated players in the history of Irish basketball. No one has more National (Super) League medals to their name than ‘Wilky’ who finished with eight, a tally only equalled by his long-time Neptune teammate Tom O’Sullivan. Indeed from 1980-81 to 1990-91, there were only three seasons that concluded without Wilkinson being a National League champion.
Wilkinson also won three National Cups (1985, 1988 and 1990, all with Neptune) as well as five old National Top Four Championships, two of which he won with Blue Demons, a club he captained to the league and Top Four double in 1980-81 before transferring back to his first love, Neptune, who he would help transform into the most dominant team the domestic men’s league has ever known. Wilkinson excelled in international competition too. In one of the greatest-ever international achievements by an Irish club side, he scored a team-high 20 points for Burgerland Neptune in their historic 1982 Roy Curtis international tournament final win over the famed Murray International Metals from Scotland. Renowned for his mental toughness, leadership and terrific outside shooting, Wilkinson played more than 100 times for Ireland between 1976 and 1988, captaining the side for the last three of those seasons.
Upon retiring in 1991 after another league and Top Four double, Wilkinson served as Neptune club treasurer for a number of years before coaching the club to another Super League title in 1997. He also coached multiple teams in Douglas National School, where he taught for decades before recently retiring, and Douglas Community School, helping popularise the sport on the southside of Cork city.