The Opportunity of a Lifetime
Oct. 12, 2007
EASTON, Pa. - With a week of training camp that included six and half hour a day workouts behind him, senior Paul Cummins stepped onto the hardwood at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght, Ireland. When the buzzer sounded, the Irish National team had defeated Luxembourg 84-58 and Cummins had scored 14 points. Following the game the squad of 22 was dwindled down by head coach Greg Gurr with the final round of cuts, bringing the roster to 12.
"I went home to Ireland to tryout and I was pretty nervous because they are a good team with a lot of professional and international players," Cummins said. "I was one of the lucky ones that made the team."
A native of Kildare, Ireland, Cummins exchanged his maroon and white for green last summer. He exchanged his maroon and white for green and took advantage of the opportunity of a lifetime to represent his country on the international basketball stage.
Camp began in Ireland in early July and the season continued through the final game against Cyprus on Sept. 7. The team finished third in its group with a 4-5 record.
"It was just an awesome experience; we played really good teams," Cummins said. "Our team did pretty well. We finished third behind Romania and Switzerland. Romania was the winner of our group and went on to the next stage."
In addition to the opportunity to represent his country, Cummins was able to travel Europe and play against NBA professionals along the way. Against Great Britain, Cummins played against Luol Deng, of the Chicago Bulls.
"Throughout the summer, we played at least ten NBA guys who were playing for their countries. Romania and Switzerland had three or four guys on their roster," Cummins said. "We played really good teams with really good players."
Not to be forgotten are the 11 individuals Cummins played alongside. The roster was a mix of international players with a few Irish members of the team. Most of the team was comprised of professional basketball players from Europe, Australia and Canada. Cummins was only one of two members of the roster who came from college to play internationally.
"Overall it was just an awesome experience and the coolest thing was to travel," Cummins said. "We traveled to Cyprus, Luxemburg, Romania and other countries I had never seen before. It was a great opportunity."
Although being a member of the Irish national team meant Cummins spent the summer traveling Europe, his objective on the court remained: to perform well and give everything to win. He identified some of the differences between American and European basketball and the challenges in adjusting to both styles of play.
At Lafayette, and in all colleges in the states, there is a 35-second shot clock. The game involves a bit more strategizing and the pace of play isn't always the quickest. In Europe, waiting is not an option with only 24-seconds to shoot.
"The shot clock is the first big difference between the European and American game," Cummins explained. "Here, there is a lot of holding the ball and waiting around. In Europe, you have to get a quick shot."
The emphasis on athleticism in America benefited Cummins when he returned home. He was considered one of the more athletic guys on the team and Cummins feels that his style of play on the court is best emphasized in the European game.
"I am valued as a shooter and that's my strength at Lafayette. In Europe, my strength is still shooting, but I have that added athleticism," Cummins said. "With the Irish team I got to go to the free throw line at least six times a game. Here with Lafayette, I might get to the line once or twice and I am just another guy playing Division I basketball."
Cummins and other members of the Leopards team have become quite worldly. Aside from his time on the court for the Irish national team, Cummins was one of the members of the Lafayette men's basketball team that traveled to Italy just as school let out in May. The team earned a 4-0 record across the pond and Cummins believes the added international experience will help this year's squad.
"I think the Italy trip was brilliant. I know that several of the guys on the team had never been to Europe before. It was incredible for them and it was incredible for me. I'd never been to Italy before," Cummins continued. "Not to mention how well we did against some tough competition. I think it was a great beginning for our season."
The benefits of playing internationally from both the European and American perspective outweigh any potential negatives. Cummins believes that although America maybe the Mecca for basketball, the international game continues to improve. Programs can benefit from lessons learned traveling overseas and Lafayette is a better program for it.
"I want to win the Patriot League championship and that's all I really want to do on the court this year," he said. "We haven't done it yet and I have been here for three years, so this is my last chance."
The Lafayette men's basketball squad has the leadership of five seniors returning to lead a talented young roster that will face a challenging set to begin when the Leopards host Wagner on Nov. 9.
A dual Psychology and Music major, Cummins is looking forward to graduation and for a future still in the making on College Hill. There is a desire to continue his basketball career and education after he leaves Lafayette in May.
"I plan on playing professionally in Europe and my experience with the Irish team really helped me. I had a good campaign and because of it I got a lot of interest. I hope to go play for a few years and then I'll either come back to grad school here for sports or corporate psychology."
The importance of shooting baskets for Ireland and the value of his time spent on the court with European professionals and American professionals will continue to positively impact Cummins collegiate basketball career.
"This was a really humbling experience, probably the coolest thing that has ever happened to me, to represent my country at the highest level. I played a lot and I did really well. I can say that I wouldn't have been there without the coaches at Lafayette or the guys that I play against everyday," Cummins reflected. "I was able to go home and be better and more able to compete at the highest level. My gratitude goes to Lafayette College and the athletics department, especially the basketball program, because I don't think any other place would have prepared me as well."