IT’S going to be an interesting season for the newly appointed C & S Neptune player-coach Lehmon Colbert that will open tomorrow with a mouth-watering home clash against Killorglin.
Colbert is no stranger to Irish basketball having spent four seasons with UCC Demons that saw him help them to a Grand Slam in 2014/15 going through the campaign unbeaten.
In 2018 Colbert was overlooked by Demons and close neighbours Neptune jumped at the opportunity to acquire his services.
Last season was certainly a tough one for Colbert as the club were relegated for the first time in their long history, but with UCC Demons withdrawing from the league, Neptune were given a reprieve to remain in the top flight.
“I thought last season we were very young but this year I am hoping we learned from the mistakes we made and with some new additions I am confident we will be very competitive,” said Colbert.
How does Colbert intend approaching the new campaign? “My philosophy is going to be defence as last season we tried too hard to outscore teams and that didn’t work in a lot of games,” he said.
“Dominating our own boards will also be a priority and after that hopefully we will have the firepower to win games.”
This season Neptune have acquired the services of 6’ 9” Spanish ace Nil Sabita and Colbert believes he will make a huge difference against the elite sides in the league.
“I love him as he is capable of guarding from three to five and that’s a huge asset for any side and our victory scholar American Peter Hoffman has just got in and is a player of undoubted class.”
The signing of Kyle Hosford from UCC Demons was a major coup for Neptune as Colbert believes he will give his side so much more at both ends of the court. “When Demons pulled out I just couldn’t let Kyle go as, in my book, he is the best point guard in this country and hopefully the Neptune fans will see his true talent in the coming months.”
On the subject of UCC Demons withdrawing from the league, Colbert believes it is a worrying trend for Irish basketball.
“God, I never expected or wanted to see the club that gave the opportunity to play in Ireland go out of business and never in my wildest dreams would I have wished anything bad to happen to them.
“I think people should stand up and take note when a club like Demons are forced to pull out of the league that nobody can rest on their laurels as they were a massive institution of basketball for over 50 years.”
Looking at the league in general, Colbert believes it is totally unbalanced. “The league is nowhere close to a level playing field and I just cannot understand how the clubs that are struggling to compete did not address the problems to the ruling body.
“A decent rule would have been to have three Irish players on court at any given time and that would stop the influx of Europeans that are presently making up the majority of some teams.
“Indeed we will see only one Irish player starting with some teams and that, to me, could eventually kill the game in this country.”
Neptune will have a few new faces on court this season with the Hannigan twins, James and Scott, coming into the equation after showing incredible form last season at U20 level.
“James and Scott work incredibly hard as on each occasion that I am working out in the gym these lads are also working their socks off and they are sure to give us something extra this season.
“Conor Ryan has also come over from Demons and at 6’ 9” he is a big body that is capable of giving us more physicality on the boards so all in all I am more than happy with the squad.”
The Neptune chief received good news over the summer when Cian Heaphy’s departure to an American college didn’t materialise — Colbert was happy to welcome him back into his squad.
“Cian is a superb athlete and I told him he may get another opportunity to fulfil his dream but for now I am banking on him to have a good season in the Neptune colours.”
Colin O’Reilly was the man responsible for bringing Colbert to Ireland and tomorrow he will be locking horns against his former teammate and coach.
“Colin and I are very familiar with one another as we have had eight years together between England and Ireland and to be honest I learned a lot from him and he learnt a lot from me so I guess tomorrow will be fun.”
The Neptune boss is totally focused on the Killorglin game as he believes a win would give his team and club a huge lift.
“I think the opening game for all teams is important and in particular for us in the manner we finished last season and, for basketball fans, I am sure this will be an interesting clash.”
Colbert has called on past and present members and basketball fans in general to support his team for the coming season.
“Getting good home support can lift a team and especially for the Irish players who put so much into the sport and it would be nice if we could get better support throughout this season.”