It’s far too early to be making bold predictions – especially when there are a number of new teams in the league – but things are looking up for the Scotts Lakers.
The 2017/18 season was predictably up and down as St Paul’s tried to reacclimatise to National League basketball but now, with one year under their belt and some exciting new signings in their ranks, the Lakers appear to have all the right ingredients to make a real impression in Division One.
Coach Cormac O’Donoghue is fortunate to have plenty of local talent at his disposal, most notably athletic all-rounder Mark Greene who was excellent last weekend, but ultimately your Americans and your Europeans are likely to be your most influential players. To this end, the Lakers recruited guard Seán O’Brien from the States at the last minute to replace the outgoing Harrison Deneka, who was traded to Galway. If O’Brien’s home debut is anything to go by, that late transfer may prove to be a masterstroke.
O’Brien was outstanding last week against Mathews. He top-scored with 37 points, shooting 12/20 from the field and a perfect 9/9 from the line. But the Philadelphia native is more than just a finisher. For me, the most impressive aspect of his performance was his attitude.
The newcomer worked as hard as (if not harder than) anyone on the floor and showed a degree of selflessness rarely seen in American imports. At 6’2” the former Colgate University star is no giant but he got more offensive rebounds (4) than any of his teammates and he also finished up with four steals. His active hands made things difficult for Mathews all night long and if he can maintain this level of effort, he is sure to become a firm fan favourite here in Killarney.
Dutch big man Papito Hersisia also did well. He racked up 18 points, 14 rebounds and a couple of blocks in a solid outing and he seems to have all the necessary tools to be a dominant force in the league. Last year the Lakers were expecting Antuan Bootle to play that role but I felt he lacked a bit of aggression down low. The Bahamian-American seemed to settle for jump shots a bit too often when realistically a player that big and strong should be doing most of his damage closer to the basket.
Papito likes to shoot as well – and he’s not a bad shooter by the looks of things – but if he can use his huge frame to control the paint, the Lakers will be hard to beat this season.
Last Saturday the home team grabbed nine offensive rebounds (the opposition had 10) but the majority were corralled by guards. In Hersisia and Andrew Fitzgerald the Lakers have great size and athleticism at 4 and 5 so there’s no reason why that number can’t improve over the course of the campaign.
One big positive for Cormac O’Donoghue was the low number of turnovers given up by his new-look team. Turnovers were an issue throughout the Lakers’ comeback season but they were careful with the ball against Mathews, coughing up possession just eight times. Mathews, meanwhile, had 18 turnovers and that differential was undoubtedly one of the deciding factors on the night.
The Lakers are now 3-0 following last night’s victory over the WIT Vikings and they’ll be hoping to make it four from four when they host the UL Eagles today at 3pm at Killarney Sports Centre.
The Eagles remain winless after last night’s 72-73 defeat to LIT but the Lakers will have to keep a close eye on American Tarchee Brown. The former Eastern Connecticut State guard is currently averaging 31 points per game.
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