4 Days, 2 Days, 1 Winner.
The Manhattan, Holy Cross, La Salle, and Towson NCAA Division I College Men’s Basketball Teams came all the way from America to play in the first ever Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic and it was an absolute success! With just about 10,000 tickets sold, the SSE Arena was packed for the first ever American Basketball Tournament in Northern Ireland. The day Matt and I arrived in Belfast we took a tour of the SSE arena and helped set up. At the end of the day I went into the stands and FaceTimed my Dad to show him how awesome the basketball floor!
This year’s Victory Scholars had the opportunity to work behind the scenes and we had a blast! I was a team liaison for La Salle college so I had the job of working with the team throughout their stay in Belfast. Andy Mulholland and I attended breakfast, lunch, shoot arounds, games, and dinner with the lads. We were responsible for making sure transportation, meals, and practices were scheduled to meet the needs of the team. We also had the time to speak with the coaching staff as well as a couple players. One of the players on La Salle, Cian O’Sullivan, is actually from Ireland and was thrilled to be playing in his home country! Both Andy and I greatly enjoyed the experience of working as liaisons for La Salle.
Prior to the games, I was able to spoke with the legendary Dave Hopla. I sat with him for a mere 20 minutes and listened to all the brilliant things he had to say about the game of basketball and coaching. He performed on Friday and Saturday with his incredible shooting ability and nearly broke a world record! Having the chance to get to learn from someone as wise and skilled as him was an honour. I also had the chance to meet 3 gentlemen from America who work for a company called Time It Right who handled all the score table information. Ironically, they are from Connecticut and have operated the score table for many of my games at Albertus Magnus College. What a small world!
My favourite part about the tournament, aside from watching the games, was the organised chaos that went on prior to the event. Call me crazy, but I greatly enjoyed being a part of the hands-on experience of running a basketball tournament. I admire the Sport Changes Life Staff for the endless hours of work they have been putting in over time to make this event possible.
The Championship Game came down to the final 3 seconds where Towson’s Mike Morsell hit a sweet 12 foot jump shot to give them the 1 point win over Manhattan! After the game, all of the Victory Scholars stayed to help pick up the basketball court…which sounds a lot easier than it was. Each piece of the floor had to be dissembled and stacked onto a pallet. So, minus the sore forearms and legs, the weekend in Belfast was great fun! I am so glad I was a part of the inaugural Belfast Classic and I truly look forward to the continued success that this tournament will have in coming years.