AMERICAN Dave Beckom is celebrating a special milestone this year, the 40th anniversary of when he came to play basketball in Ireland as a professional player with Blue Demons.
He took to the court with fellow Pittsburgh star Wayne Williams for the Sunday's Well club in a very successful season, winning the National League and Cup, before adding the Federation Cup beating Boroughmuir of Scotland in the final.
Beckom, a Pittsburgh native, was a very accomplished player from a young age. He was an Allstate American and got to play in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Dapper Dan Basketball Classic, now the McDonalds Basketball Classic in 1975, hooping alongside Wayne Williams. He got scholarship offers from Georgetown, North Carolina State, but choose to play for Division 2 school Roanoke College in Virginia, where he averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds, a double-double.
Beckom was with Roanoke for two seasons before transferring to University of Colorado, a Division 1 College in the Big 12. After a couple of hugely impressive seasons in Colorado, and got recruited by Blue Demons in 1980 as one of their first professional players.
“I can remember coming to Ireland for the first time 40 years ago as it was yesterday!
"I was picked up from the airport by the Coughlan brothers, Joe and Peter (RIP), and Dan Byrne. They were great people who made me feel very welcome from the first day.
"I was surprised by the standard of the Irish players on our team, as we had the likes of Tom Wilkinson, Andrew Houihan, Joe Coughlan, Sean Murphy, John Cooney and Timmy McCarthy playing with Wayne Williams and myself that went on to win a lot of trophies.”
Beckom went on to play with Corinthians from Dublin the following year and then was player-coach of Galway Democrats the following year.
“I moved to Dublin to play with Corinthians in 1981, and we had a really good season. The next season I was asked to become player-coach with Division 2 side Galway Democrats, and I really loved my time there. I returned home after that season to get more involved in the coaching aspect of the game.”
He returned to Ireland again when he got the opportunity to coach the North Mon in 1987. Back on Leeside, he met his wife Liz, and they got married three years later.
“I was back home in the States when I got a call from Ireland would I be interested in coaching the North Mon. I didn’t have to think twice as it was a great opportunity.
"I met my wife Liz when I came back to Cork, and were now happily married 27 years. We have two lovely children James and Jasmine.”
He went back to America in 1989 with Liz as the number of American players was cut to one per team. They returned 10 years later to start a family and set up home in Donoughmore where he still lives.
“I went back to the United States with Liz because the number of American players was cut to one which limited my chances of getting a team. We spent 10 years there when Liz wanted to come back home to start a family.
"I was lucky enough to find work as a gym instructor at Silver Springs Hotel and Brookfield Leisure Centre. Then James and Jasmine came along, and it changed our lives forever as its the best thing that ever happened to me in my life.”
His son James is following in his footsteps on the hardwood, and his now in his second year with Division 1 College John Brown University in Siloam Springs Arkansas. He has always guided and encouraged James from a young age. However, he recognizes that James is his own man, and his work ethic is got him to where he is today.
“James was interested in basketball from a young age so he joined Blue Demons as an eight-year-old. I got to coach him at U12 level which was a cool experience.
"I could see that James' work ethic would bring him to the next level. It was when James was playing with the U16 Irish team he was spotted by a scout from Italian club Lido Di Roma.
"I traveled over to Italy to speak to the club, and he spent a fantastic season there. After he came back from Italy James wanted to try go to the States so I reached out to my brother Charles to see if James could move to Bentonville Arkansas to live with him and his wife.
"James went to Bentonville High School for two year, and then accepted a full athletic scholarship at John Brown University. As a family we have attended a few of James college games, and we are always blown away with their fantastic facility.”
Beckom is working as a rehabilitation instructor for the National Learning Network, a Rehab-Group in Hollyhill.
“I work as a rehabilitation instructor for the Rehab-Group a job I really enjoy, however I plan to retire in the next couple of years. I will then spend more time with the girls Liz and Jasmine, and travel to see James play where ever that will be.”