Tall man Eli Lenihan is determined to reach for even greater heights in the USA

Tall man Eli Lenihan is determined to reach for even greater heights in the USA

Former Neptune star Eli Lenihan in action for his college

FORMER Neptune’s national cup winning captain Eli Lenihan’s impactful debut season at the college level is coming to a close this month.

The 6’5” playmaking guard made the leap abroad for the first time in September of 2020 to enrol in a post-graduate year at the MacDuffie School in Massachusetts.

Following a year hampered by the pandemic, Lenihan earned himself a spot at Spring Hill College in Alabama where he competes at the NCAA Division 2 level.

Partaking in a year of high school basketball before making the notable step up to the college tier has allowed for a more seamless transition on the hardwood for Lenihan.

“In comparison to basketball at home, the most significant differences are definitely the athleticism of players and the speed of the game, which is much quicker here in every way.

“Defence is certainly more intense as a result of the rise in athleticism also.” 

In his second year away from home, Lenihan has adjusted to life off of the court in similar fashion.

“I settled in quickly, largely due to my coach and teammates being so welcoming.

Neptune captain Eli Lenihan and his team-mates celebrate with the cup after the Hula Hoops U18 Men's National Cup Final between Neptune and Belfast Star at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght, Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Neptune captain Eli Lenihan and his team-mates celebrate with the cup after the Hula Hoops U18 Men's National Cup Final between Neptune and Belfast Star at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght, Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

“The college is in Mobile on the south coast of Alabama, which means the hot weather and the brilliant beaches definitely helped the transition also. 

“Surprisingly, I haven’t been too homesick throughout my time here, but occasionally being away from family and friends can be a struggle.” Heading into the year, Lenihan was expected to be a red-shirt in his freshman season, meaning he would forego his first year of playing eligibility in order to prepare for the rigours of a college basketball season.

Injuries and external circumstances led to an unexpected shortage of players for the season, allowing the Cork native to slot into the squad ahead of the campaign’s start last November.

As the games came and went, Lenihan’s impressive performances coincided with a steady growth in his minutes which has now seen him become a regular fixture in Craig Kennedy’s starting lineup.

“Naturally, it feels great to start as a freshman as it isn’t very common.

”I think as the season progressed, I began to get used to the speed of the game which definitely led to an increase in my playing time.” 

After out-performing even his own expectations in his first year, Lenihan ceases to rest on his laurels, determined to strive for even greater heights.

“I’m looking to finish the season strongly here in Alabama and hopefully play at the U20 European Championships this summer.

“Naturally, I’d also love to represent Ireland at the senior level in the future.

“It has been great to see them be so successful recently and I would love to be a part of that down the line.”

Eli Lenihan in action for Neptune in the Under 18 Men's National Cup semi-final; Neptune vs UCD Marian.
Eli Lenihan in action for Neptune in the Under 18 Men's National Cup semi-final; Neptune vs UCD Marian.

Meanwhile, closer to home tonight UCC Demons travel to Limerick to play Limerick Celtics in the men's First Division.  

Demons are on course to win the double and coach Danny Mahony knows another win on the road tonight will keep them top of the table with games running out.

Elsewhere Cork basketball star Jordan Blount is enjoying his time playing professionally in Iceland firstly with Thor AK and now Sindri.

"So I’m actually playing for Sindri now. Unfortunately towards the end of October I suffered a tear in my MCL. 

"Thor released me because of that. Unfortunately that’s the business side of this game. 

"Thankfully though, I had been playing very well and another team picked me up right away and gave me the time I needed to recover. 

"It’s funny actually, our game against Cyprus was my first game back after about a month out with a torn MCL."

What’s the style like in the Icelandic league, is there anything in particular that you’ve added to your game or improved on by playing there?

"I think the biggest thing in this league is transition. They get busy in the open court. I love it. 

"The one thing that I think I’ve improved on during my time here is my shooting % and consistency."

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