Back in Collig
“Just to play competitive basketball is what I always dreamed of.”
After the nadir of being released by James Maddison, Nation was drifting. A way back into basketball came courtesy of a coaching gig for the girls’ team at Harrisonburg High School in Virginia.
“Coach Mark Neofotis and Demont Perry... they changed my life around. Mark got me away from Tampa and welcomed me into his home and got me coaching, to help pay my rent and keep me involved in the game.
“Coaching those girls at high school made me want to play again. It brought back the love.
“I was in the gym every day so I was working out every day.
“I was kind of a big star in that area from college. A lot of people would have known who I was.
“The easy work was playing basketball. I was doing that since I was five years old and I’m 25 now but Mark helped resurrect my life because I was going down the wrong path and with the wrong crowd.
“I kept being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
It was definitely a case of being in the right place when Ballincollig came calling. That was through Don Burgess, who had a connection with Ballincollig coaching stalwart Francis O’Sullivan.
“Coach Don asked me was I still trying to play. A couple of weeks had passed but Francis rang Don and told him he was looking for a guy. Don told him how I was working with the kids and set it up.
“A day later Sully (Kieran O’Sullivan, Francis’ brother and Ballincollig head coach) called me and ‘boom’, they sent the contract over, I signed it and away we went.
“I love playing in Ballincollig because I’m working with the O’Sullivans.
“Kieran, Daniel, Ciarán, Francis is a huge factor in the club. They’re brilliant basketball minds and we’ve young guys like Dylan (Corkery) and Pa (O’Mahony) and a vet like Ian McLaughlin, they all bring it every day at practice.
“Coming to Ballincollig is one of the top three best things that have ever happened to me, along with going to college and becoming an uncle.
“My niece Jaylen, who is six in December, is the heart and soul of the family.”
As well as inspiring the next generation of Ballincollig basketballers with his soaring slam-dunks and stylish side-steps, Nation is giving back in coaching terms too.
He often falls in with Nicky Bohane assisting with various teams from U10s upwards.
“I love being in the gym around basketball. I love helping out with coach Nicky.
“It’s great to help kids because youth is our future.
“I don’t want to change the whole world but if I can help one person and down the road they can do the same, then the cycle goes on.”
Meanwhile, the games are coming thick and fast for the Division 1 unit. Nation’s 48-point haul ensured they came back from 15 down against rivals Fr Mathew’s while they survived an away trip to Killarney too.
“The game in Killarney was great. I was really up for that. Nicky and Colman (O’Flynn, the club chairman) got the drums out for that and to play in front of 800 people made it a big stage and the more watching the better.
“The atmosphere was crazy and it was wild how loud the Ballincollig fans were.”
Ireland might not seem like the most sensible place for someone trying to keep on track, but he has put that phase of his life behind him.
“I’m in a good place in my life. I partied hard, I partied all night long, I partied before games.
“I’ve done everything you could think of.
“I’m totally focused this season to make sure I get the best situation I can next year.
“If there’s a team thing I’m there. I’m a firm believer in team camaraderie.
“Otherwise, I stick to the straight and narrow because I’ve used up my chances.
“I’ve taken everything as a lesson, instead of a loss.”
And the lessons learned in the US have translated into brilliant buckets in the Irish league.
Andre Nation with Ed Burke, the manager of club sponsor Tradehouse Central.
Ballincollig basketball star Andre Nation dropped in to visit the club’s U10 and U11 players at training in Coláiste Choilm recently.