I am sitting on the bus back to Letterkenny writing this blog with the biggest smile on my face. In all the years of basketball being in my life, I have never played in a championship final, though I have always dreamed of it since I was a kid. And now, I will return back to America in a few months as an All-Ireland champion….
This post is a Thank You letter to everyone who has supported me and my teammates to get to this point. This truly would not have been possible without you all. I, and my 5-year-old self, thank YOU from the bottom of my heart.
Sport Changes Life: First and foremost, this moment and incredible year-long adventure would not have been possible without you. Thank you for this memory I will cherish for the rest of my life. Thank you for believing in me and the other 23 amazing Victory Scholars to carry out your mission here in Ireland. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to make a difference in young people’s lives. Without this opportunity, I would not have been able to share this special moment with my Mom.
Coach Jones, “CJ”, my Head Coach at Brockport: Where do I even begin? A thank you is simply not enough to explain how grateful I am for everything you have taught me about the game of basketball and life. I would not be writing this post today nor would I have been able to reach this achievement without you and your belief in my dreams. Thank you for teaching me how to fall in love with trusting the process.
The LYIT Supporters, who traveled 4 hours on a bus to watch the final: Wow. What an atmosphere you guys brought to the game! Your energy and support was incredible. You made winning the championship that much more special because we were able to do it with the best support system right beside us. Special thank you to Mary O’Shea for organizing the whole trip down; Ailish, Amira, Ruta, Coach Paul, Saoirse, and Clodagh for making the trip to Dublin; and my wee ones (Eilis, Laura, Katie, and our intern Bronagh) for missing school to come and watch this moment. Thank you for creating an atmosphere I will never forget. It is, and will always be, my most favorite game I have ever played in because of you guys.
Niall, “Nza Mcdza”, my Head Coach at LYIT: What a process it has been to achieve this moment! I am extremely grateful for everything you have done for me and the other “yanks”. Thank you for believing in this team every single day!
My wonderful teammates: WE DID IT!! I’m pretty sure we shocked the whole country of Ireland with that overtime win. What an incredible moment and I am so grateful to have been able to share it with you guys. Thank you for one of the best basketball seasons of my life. It would not have been the same “craic” without each and everyone of you! Now, let’s go have a blast at Varsities!
Chaz and my Irish brother, Luke, who surprised me and Makenzie by coming to the game: Well, you both made me tear up when I saw you at the gym and for those who aren’t aware, I am a complete sucker for moments like these. I went to bed the night before assuming Chaz and Luke were not going to be able to make the 4 hour drive down to Dublin because of school and work assignments, but like any sappy happy-go-lucky movie ending, who sat front row with the biggest smiles to watch us bring home the gold? You guessed it – a once stranger who is now one of my best friends and my Irish little brother. Thank you for the amazing surprise.
Makenzie Burud, “wee” Makenzie: How did I get so lucky to have been able to share this experience with you? We have had quite the adventure and it’s not over yet! While I could write a small novel about our friendship, I’ll keep it short and sweet because you’re not a “fluffer” (as Coach Jones would say) like me: Mak, you are an amazing basketball player, but an even more amazing person. You are going to do wonderful things in this life. I will always be so proud of you and extremely proud to be your friend. Being your teammate and getting to share the floor with you has truly been an honor. Thank you for all the laughs and memories on and off the court.
Mom and Dad, my heart: Remember when I was younger – I would shoot in the backyard, pretending I was playing in a championship game? Well, I cannot believe this moment has finally happened in real life. And I cannot believe it happened in Ireland with Mom watching it in person…. I feel like this is a story you only read about! Thank you both for always supporting me on and off the court. Thank you for providing me with a life that some can only dream about and thank you for your unconditional love. Everything I do, I do to make you both proud.
THANK YOU to everyone who has believed in me and my teammates. I am the same kid who will always be in love with the game of basketball, and now, my dream has become a reality!