BASKETBALL player, Edel Thornton, has only one wish for Christmas. Well, three, really.
One is to be in Cork with her family and friends. The second is to repeat the success that she and her college, Quinnipiac University, enjoyed in 2017.
The third is to be part of Mark Scannell’s senior Irish women’s side in the European Small Nations Championship, in Cork, next year.
Last year, Edel and her team reached the Sweet 16 tournament, live on national TV, and they beat bigger, better-funded, more prestigious colleges to do so.
Edel is hoping to repeat this feat again in 2018. “My aim is to win another MAAC championship, regular-season trophy, and our sights are set to get back to the Sweet 16, if not further,” said Thornton.
“This is our last year with the senior class, and so I think, for me, I have an inner drive to make this an amazing ending for them, as college players, as they have done so much for me.
“Along with that, I would love to be a part of the senior’s women’s Irish team this summer, in the Mardyke. I had a great time last summer, so it would be awesome to be back in a green jersey, fighting for a gold medal.”
The 21-year-old, from Guarranbraher, who is on a basketball scholarship at Quinnipiac University, Hamden, is loving life in the US, but is looking forward to Christmas.
“I get home this Christmas, thanks to our amazing coach, who knows how much it means to the internationals on our team to get home.
“I fly from Michigan and so I land early on the 23rd and fly back out on the 26th to practice that night.
“It’s short, but it is definitely important for me to get back to my family for Christmas, be it for three weeks or three days.
“I am here in the States since August, 2015 and I absolutely love it.
“Those first two months were pretty tough for me. I don’t think I was fully aware of, or prepared for, exactly what it was I was now adjusting to, because so much came at once. I was starting college, in a new country, with new people around me, playing with different teammates, and playing a different style.
“It was a lot to take in, all at once, but once I overcame that adjustment, I’ve loved it ever since. I’ve gotten home for three days at Christmas for both years and I’ve gotten home for the entire summer both years.”
“Quinnipiac University, Hamden, is a small place, but you have everything you need in the small space.
“There are other Irish people here (not many, but a few). In particular, there is one girl on the soccer team (a junior, too), who I’ve gotten to know, Jess Gargan, and its been helpful for us to just be able to talk to each other, in the sense we both view the place and the community in the same light. I live with three of my teammates and two of our other friends.”
Life is so hectic for Thornton that she barely gets time to think the people back home: she is playing basketball and studying psychology.
“In season, life can be hectic, to say the least. I’m taking six classes now, so I go to class from 9-12 Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and 8-12:30 Tuesday, Thursday.
“After class, we have practice for at least 2/3 hours a day, unless its game day. On game day, we have a shoot around, then a pre-game meal, and then the game. We usually have a day off class the day after a game, or if we have two games, back-to-back, we get them both off.
“I try to get a lot of my work done when I get it, so it doesn’t pile up, so I usually study after practice and a lot on off-days.
“I don’t work. Honestly, I don’t have much time to and I’m fortunate enough to say, right now, I don’t need to: my living, classes, books, and food are all part of my scholarship, which is great.”
Playing basketball in the US was a massive jump for Thornton.
“I know there’s always going to be people a lot better than me, but that doesn’t inevitably mean they will work harder than me. And, coming here, that was my mindset. I knew I would never play as much as I did at home, but I came here to work hard, learn, and become a better player and that just so happened.
“I don’t really worry about my minutes. I feel like once you get drawn into that, it’s a mental battle with yourself and you become disconnected with what’s best for the team.
“I try to impact the game as much as I can with the minutes I get on any given night. I think my basketball IQ has definitely gotten a lot better and I can read plays better now, rather than just attacking the rim every time.
“I have improved my outside shot, which is something I never really focused on at home. The most difficult thing for me to adjust to was definitely the terminology and a big one I still struggle with is fouls called when you’re guarding the point guard.”
With just over a year left in her scholarship, what’s next for Thornton?
“I have until the end of next year left in my scholarship. I’m hoping to either go to Europe or come back home to get a masters in educational psychology.
“My goal is to be working in a school specifically working to benefit those with learning disabilities or be an SNA. I want to continue to play basketball, of course, but I’ll just keep on track and let things work out as they do. Honestly, it sounds cliché, but my main ambition in life is just to be happy in whatever it is I end up doing.
“I try to make the most of what I have at any given chance and I think this helps me see the positives in all situations.
“I know there are many people a lot worse than myself.
“One big goal I have had for a few years is to have an impact on the lives of the people around me and that is my goal for 2018.”