Portlaoise Panthers Men and Women’s teams are preparing for the commencement of the National Basketball League campaigns this weekend.
Both sides will begin their seasons on the road this Saturday with games in Dublin and Limerick.
The men are competing in Division 1 and they begin away to the highly rated Tolka Rovers.
While the women are also in Division 1 and will kick off their season away to Limerick Sport Huskies.
For the first time, all 25 games on the opening weekend will be available for fans to stream in one place, basketballireland.tv, giving more access than ever for fans of the game both at home and abroad.
With a season pass available until October 17th at €29.99, it’s the perfect time for fans both new and old to engage with the game here on a new level.
The men are being managed this year by Portlaoise CBS teacher Peter Duignan while Jack Dooley is in charge of the women.
As well as an array of local talent, both teams have signed two exciting players from overseas for the coming season.
The Women’s team signed Alyssa Velles and Jessica Fressle while the men signed Desean Hampton and Daniel Adjuka.
Desean Hampton comes from Speedway, Indiana. Desean played college basketball at Indiana University of Kokomo under coach Eric Echelbarger.
Daniel Adjuka was born in Barnet, North London and raised in South London in a town called Pollards Hill.
Daniel played in Italy for Diamond Foggia, Spain for Estudiantes Cartagena, Sweden for Trelleborg Pirates and last season was with Limerick Sport Eagles.
Alyssa Velles comes from Connecticut where she went to college at Saint Peter’s in New Jersey right outside NYC.
Jessica Fressle also hails from Connecticut where she attended Connecticut State University.
Speaking ahead of the start of the campaign, men’s manager Peter Duignan says the standard of the National League is going through the roof.
He said: “The league has taken a huge jump in standard across the board and the amount of money being pumped in is unnatural.
“A lot of teams have three or four pros and we have two who we are absolutely delighted with.
“Desean Hampton is a very athletic player and he will bring a lot of excitement to the hall with his ability to dunk and block shots.
“Daniel Adjuka has been in the league for the last few years and is a very impressive player.
“We went through hundreds and hundreds of players before getting the two lads and they are great.
“We’ve received so much support this season and we are so grateful to all of our sponsors.
“In particular, Mulhall’s SuperValu, Subway, Lilly’s, Hughes’ Pharmacy and LSM for all of their support.”
Portlaoise Panthers have produced a number of very good young teams in recent years and Peter says that local lads are the cornerstone of the team.
He said: “We are very much homegrown. We have the two lads but after that it is the same team as last year.
“We will play high intensity and fast paced basketball and anyone who comes to see us this year will see that.
“It is a development process for the next few years but it is going well so far and we’ve got some gaelic footballers back too.
“Davin McEvoy of Ballyroan-Abbey has returned while Benny Carroll of Portlaoise has also returned. I’ve even managed to convince Jack Scully to give it another year.
“Pre-season has gone well for both teams and we are raring to go.”
Next Saturday will see a double header of games in St Mary’s Hall and Peter says the club have big plans in place.
Portlaoise Panthers Women are playing Carlow while the men are taking on Drogheda Wolves who reached the National Cup final last year.
“Next weekend, we have a double header in St Mary’s Hall where the girls are on at 6pm and we are on at 8pm.
“We are trying to get every kid in the club down to the game. It will be a big spectacle where you can meet and greet the players.
“There will be music booming, a raffle and this will be the first time that we won’t really be impacted by Covid either so hopefully a big crowd can come down.”
SEE ALSO – A famine ended as St Joseph’s defeat Stradbally Parish Gaels for first Minor since 1968