RAIN rattled off Neptune’s corrugated roof as Adam Drummond walked through the door for the first time in months.
Just hours ago the northside native was boarding a flight from JFK airport to take a much deserved week off for spring break, his body feeling the toll of a tough season with Connecticut prep school Taft.
Enrolled in the school as a post-graduate, the year acts as a stepping stone an attempt to attract the attention of college scouts.
But when two other star recruits picked up season-ending knee and foot injuries, the workload was now firmly shifted to the growing, yet still lanky, shoulders of Drummond.
Averaging 14 points per contest to go with five assists and as many rebounds, Adam was the leader on the court in what he describes as “a different league” when compared to Irish basketball.
Daily two-hour practices, weightlifting sessions, extra shooting, not to mention work in the classroom in one of the foremost academic schools on the east coast, a break was warranted indeed.
Yet here he stood. Ball under the arm, gear bag slung over the shoulder – only for the Taft hoodie, you would have been forgiven for thinking he had never left.
After lacing up on the sideline, the 18-year-old Drummond falls seamlessly back into one of Paul Kelleher’s sessions.
Not only is this a testament to the work ethic and passion that has opened so many doors for the young talent, but also to the relationship that he maintains with his boyhood club Neptune.
Just over 12 months ago, the future never looked so bright for this northside club steeped in history.
Following a clean sweep of national U18, U20 and senior cups in the space of three days, with Drummond shining in each contest, Neptune looked to be returning to SuperLeague basketball sooner than expected.
Notably, a 31-point effort in the penultimate final of the weekend earned the guard MVP honours, his third such award on the national stage to date. It was clear a successful senior career in Irish basketball was very much on the cards for Drummond if he wished to stay in the Rebel county.
However, greener pastures were calling for the young star, opting instead to spend a year perfecting his craft in the US. Couple this with teammate Sean Jenkins’ move to South Carolina and the untimely passing of gentle giant Liam Chandler and Neptune’s resurgence was set to be put on hold.
“With everything that’s happened in the last 12 months it really makes you step back and think,” admits Drummond. “I always end up saying to the lads ‘how many more cups could we have won if things didn’t pan out the way they did?’
“But at the end of the day this is what I’ve always wanted, and everyone at home knows that. They’re not going to fault me for following my dreams.”
It’s this supportive environment that has been so essential to his progress all the way from U13 to under the lights at the Donald F McCullough centre in east Connecticut.
Adam isn’t alone in the small coastal state. Just an hour up the road is Dublin product John Carroll, now excelling in Hartford University, while former Brunell phenom Edel Thornton looks forward to her second NCAA tournament forty minutes in the opposite direction.
“John and Edel were so helpful to me at the start,” Adam says. “It was very tough when I first moved out there, but to be fair they were always checking to make sure I was settling in, and that helped me out a lot.”
The growing list of Cork players stateside reflects extremely well on the current standard of basketball in the county, says Drummond.
“To be honest I think we’re on a different level to the rest of the country,” he continues. “Right now there’s five of us over there in high school or college, and it’s really down to the support we all got from our clubs all the way up through the age groups.”
Things are quite different that side of the Atlantic, as one could well imagine.
Academic standards are sky-high, with as much emphasis on class work as there is on workouts.
“You’re a student-athlete so there’s a big emphasis on how you carry yourself,” Drummond says. “It’s a lot more laid back at home, but they expect a lot of you out there.”
However high those expectations were, both on and off the court, it seems they were met to a large degree.
A number of colleges currently express their interest in the Irish athlete, as he hopes to make a decision regarding next season’s plans come April.
Adam is looking to further his opportunities by playing with the highly touted NE6 basketball team, a New England based squad that compete in the Amateur Athletic Union leagues (hugely popular summer basketball leagues run throughout the country).
The program, funded by Under Armour, would give Adam the kind of exposure he could have only hoped for when he moved away last August.
Coaches flock from far and beyond in an attempt to uncover the next big talent for their college in a period where restrictions in scouting underage players are all but lifted.
Back at home, Drummond picked up an errant pass at the halfway line. Only two dribbles were needed before leaping off the right leg and dunking the ball with two hands, soon followed by taunting and laughing with his former teammates.
This was just one of a handful of plays made that turned the heads of players and coaches alike in the otherwise empty Neptune gym.
Those college scouts sure are in for a treat.