ONY a few basketball players in Ireland have landed on our shores and left lasting memories and true legacies.
When you mention the names of Americans Jasper McElroy, Terry Strickland, Ray Smith, Bob Stephens and Lennie McMillan you are talking about class people both on and off court. In 2018 Catalonian ace Nil Sabata arrived on Leeside and in his fourth season has become one of the most respected and likable guys on the Irish basketball circuit.
Sabata was born in Artais, a small village about one hour from Barcelona, and he began playing basketball in high school before moving to Paido where he played in many parts of Spain. Ironically Sabata’s school friend and former teammate Pau Cami Galera presently plays basketball with Ballincollig side Emporium Cork Basketball in the Super League.
Indeed he was also a teammate of Marc Garcia who is now considered one of the most exciting players in Spain.
“While I moved to Barcelona Marc Garcia signed for Maresa who play in the ACB which is the Premier League in Spain.”
When you get familiar with Nil, he explains why he wants to be classed as a Catalonian and not Spanish.
“The reason for this is not about hatred or dislikes but it's about loving my Catalonian roots and nothing else. Some people in Northern Ireland feel they are Irish and not English and our culture is a very proud one and I would like to see a referendum for independence,” added Sabata.
Despite his loyalty to Catalonia Nil Sabata is a peaceful guy that doesn’t like wars or trouble in his life.
Looking back on his career Nil openly admits that he was always interested in his future when his basketball career finished and he went to college to study in order to become a chemical engineer.
“I had opportunities to go to the States but I stayed with Maresa as I could combine studies and playing basketball and from there I was loaned out to Tarragona and that’s where I met my beautiful fiancée Laia Raigal.”
Despite having opportunities to work in Austria and Denmark before finishing his college degree and he ended up playing with a team called Vic.
“I was looking for a country where I could combine two passions in my life playing basketball and working in chemical engineering and after some studying Cork jumped out at me with all the pharmaceuticals here.”
The hard-working Nil checked out the basketball clubs in Cork and Neptune with their own stadium and history looked attractive and with the help of Kieran Leahy he managed to make his way to the Rebel county.
“Neptune helped with the accommodation and I brought my car but the biggest wrench for me was leaving my sweetheart Laia for one year.
“Despite my smile, I am a born winner but I would like to class myself as a team player with accolades not really worrying me but I desperately want to help Neptune win a National title.”
Off court he now works as process engineer with PFGI based at the Airport Business Park and his fiancée Laia is employed in the UCC Cancer Clinical trials as Project Manager. In recent times Nil and Laia have purchased a house at Monastery Hill as he settles into life in Cork.
“We wanted to purchase a house on the northside as that’s where the basketball history in Cork began and now in my the middle of it all and loving it.” Christmas was different for Nil and he entertained his future mother and father in Law at their new residence.
Laia is a talented tennis player as she is a member of Sunday’s Well but Nil also gets in on the action when the basketball season concludes in April.
“Laia is a beautiful tennis player who cycles everywhere and we both love a game of tennis but my priority will always be basketball.”
The season to date for Neptune has been a little disappointing as their elimination from the National Cup was met with disbelief by the faithful.
“I am presently carrying an ankle injury but I will play through the pain barrier as I love this club and I so much want us to succeed as a team.”
Ole Ole Ole Nil Sabata is here to stay! Que Caballerosa.