CRESSON - Visiting students from Belfast, Ireland, were among the 200 student athletes in attendance at the Mount Aloysius basketball camp this week.
The Irish students celebrated the 10th anniversary of their Phoenix basketball club with a trip to the college, where they spent the week practicing and competing with other students.
Simon Kennedy, one of the group's chaperones, was exposed to the sport at a young age.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Lucy O’Neill (left), 14, and Cliona O’Doherty, 14, both of Belfast, Ireland, got a little excited when they asked their new friend, Ian Wieczorek, 15, of Forest Hills High School, to have their photo taken with him.
"Everything revolved around basketball," Kennedy said.
Kennedy's daughter Sophie, 14, experienced a similar upbringing. Sophie attended her father's games and learned to dribble a basketball at an early age, Kennedy said.
Together, the father-daughter duo traveled overseas with their basketball club to attend the basketball camp.
The group of 16 boys and eight girls, ages 12 to 15, spent the week adjusting to a more physical style of basketball, said Breda Dick, one of the five chaperones on the trip.
A former captain of the Irish senior international team, Dick said there are significant differences between Irish and American basketball.
Irish basketball teams are primarily club-based and organized by specific age groups, whereas American teams are centered on a student's school, Dick said.
The American players also practice much more and employ a more physical style of play, she said.
Despite the new environment, the students have adjusted well and made dozens of friends throughout the week, Dick said. And the students were "not that far off the mark" in skill when compared to their American counterparts, she said.
Mount Aloysius has been a very welcoming host, and the Belfast students have had a great time making friends with the other kids, Kennedy said.
"I think they're just so excited to be here," he said.
The coaches have been nice and have helped the players develop their skills, said Domhnall Morris, 14.
Dominick Lynn, 15, said the entire experience has been "unreal."
The students all said they've made new friends on the basketball court.
"It's like you've adopted a whole new family," Morris said.
But the level of play has been challenging, which Lynn described as "more intense" compared to how the sport is played in Ireland.
The students have had to adjust to the level of intensity and physicality the other campers brought to the game, said Ciaran Bunting, 15.
Mount Aloysius President Dr. Tom Foley said he played basketball with Simon Kennedy's father while living in Belfast and was happy to welcome the group to the college.
Sophie Kennedy never met her grandfather, but said she was "humbled" to attend the camp and meet Dr. Foley.
The group was expected to play Bishop Guilfoyle in an exhibition game Wednesday night.
The students and their chaperones said they would all remember their experiences at the college both on and off the court.
"They are as blown away as we are with the hospitality," Dick said.
Mirror Staff Writer Zach Geiger is at 946-7535.