DESPITE the lack of clarity over the return of Irish basketball, Jamie Cotter is doing all he can to ensure that he’ll be a big part of it when players get back on the hardwood.
The Ballincollig guard is continuing to develop each and every facet of his game as a part of the John Madejski Academy in Reading, England.
Ambitious to continue training and improving amid the pandemic, Cotter and his family decided that it would be best for him to spend a year overseas.
“I’d initially been looking to play abroad for my Transition Year in an academy like this. The school is linked with the Reading Rockets so everyone who attends the academy is also a player for the club.”
It is here with the Rockets that Cotter established the connection with his academy.
“My cousins, Adrian and Ronan O’Sullivan, played professionally with the Rockets’ Division 1 team two years ago under the Irish-born coach, Alan Keane. So, when there were extra spots open in the academy, they contacted me about it and I took the opportunity.”
The 16-year-old left Ireland towards the end of August and hasn’t looked back.
Despite not being able to play competitive matches against other British teams, Cotter has embraced the high standard of play and practice.
"Being 6', you’re undersized compared to the average player being around 6' 5".”
The standard of basketball in these elite academies means they are becoming globally recognised as talent hotspots. Players seeking to make the jump to college basketball in the USA, like Dundalk’s Sam Alajiki, have used these academies as springboards to the next level.
They follow a professional-level training regimen, taken even more seriously due to the lack of games. These practice sessions span anywhere between 90 minutes and four hours on the court before factoring in the additional strength and conditioning.
“Normally, we’re training five days a week, Monday through Friday. We also have two or three gym sessions which we do either just before or straight after school.
“I’m definitely getting stronger and fitter from the amount of training that we do; going to the gym has been the biggest part of my progression.”
Coming into the final stretch of his first year in Reading, Cotter is unsure what the future holds for the year ahead.
“It’s hard to say at the moment what I’ll do. It could be coming back to Ireland to start my Leaving Certificate and return to Ballincollig BC or choosing to stay here in Reading doing my A-Levels and to keep playing with JMA and Reading Rockets.
“Other than that, I definitely hope to go for the U18 National Team next year.”
While the future may not yet be crystal clear for Cotter, his dedication both on the basketball court and in the classroom mean that he certainly won’t be short of options when that time comes.