Luke O’Sullivan on the ball after swapping Ballincollig Basketball Club for Spain

'I’ve improved a huge amount, not only with basketball but physically I’ve definitely gotten stronger'
Luke O’Sullivan on the ball after swapping Ballincollig Basketball Club for Spain

Philip Schmitz, AJ Brophy, Fabian Schmitz, Hugh Murphy, Luke O'Sullivan and Sean O'Flynn were all on the Cork U15 squad in 2016. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

BALLINCOLLIG'S Luke O’Sullivan swapped his childhood club for the City of Badajoz Academy in Spain last September and hasn’t looked back since.

The 19-year-old made the jump to mainland Europe after finishing his Leaving Certificate in the hope of furthering his basketball talents.

The Academy itself is based in the south of Spain and has seen many future professionals come through their doors, including current men’s national team member, Jordan Blount.

While improving daily under an intense training program is a priority, O’Sullivan has also been a part of the Nacional 1 team where they compete in the Primera División Nacional.

“We’re currently first in our conference with a 10-2 record. We play against all of the teams in the Spanish Southern Conference and we’ll also be heading to America in April to play against prep-schools for exposure to college coaches.” 

European basketball academies place a heavy emphasis on skill development with the CB Academy being no different.

"We train two or three times a day, Monday through Friday. Our daily schedule starts off with a two-hour basketball practice in the morning, followed by a one-hour session in the gym at around midday.

"Then, we have our main training of the day from three o’clock until six which includes another hour of strength & conditioning."

 Coaches Isaac James, Luke O'Sullivan and Katie Walshe taking a break during the Shooting Stars basketball camp at Coláiste Choilm in 2019. Picture: David Keane.
Coaches Isaac James, Luke O'Sullivan and Katie Walshe taking a break during the Shooting Stars basketball camp at Coláiste Choilm in 2019. Picture: David Keane.

O’Sullivan has reaped the benefits of his rigorous training plan, developing in more ways than one.

“I think that I’ve improved a huge amount since arriving in Spain, not only with basketball but physically I’ve definitely gotten stronger. My basketball skills and knowledge have made a massive jump from my time over here, also. 

“The coaching staff that we have here are incredibly experienced and the development just happens naturally when you train every day at such a high level.” 

For O’Sullivan, whose brother Daniel and father Donal are heavily involved with the Collig's Super League team, it has been his first time living away from home which in turn has brought its own challenges off the court.

“It’s been tough being away from home, but I feel like I have adapted to it.

I definitely thought I’d be more homesick than I am, but everything moves so quickly with training and games so it’s easy to distract yourself.” 

Having the chance to be home for Christmas was definitely a welcomed opportunity for the Ballincollig Community School graduate.

With that though, being back for the National Cup semi-finals weekend had its own connotations.

Following over a decade of service for his boyhood club, the shooting-guard was forced to sit in the stands for an U20 local derby between Ballincollig BC and Blue Demons with the winner receiving a spot in the National Cup Final in Tallaght.

“Of course, it was extremely tough having to sit and watch that semi-final in Neptune Stadium. I was itching to play in the game, but I knew when I made the decision to play here in Spain for the year that I’d forego the chance of an U20 National Cup.” 

DECISION

The talented guard will finish out his season in the academy before weighing up his choices in the summer to select the best option going forward.

“In the short-term, I’m just looking to keep developing my game and getting better over here and hopefully we’ll keep challenging ourselves to win the league and get promoted.

"Thinking about the long-term, I’m still unsure. I still have my college course reserved back at home in Cork and a very strong Super League team in Ballincollig to work my way onto. So, I’ll just see how it goes over the next few months and I’ll be able to make a decision then."

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