She’s only 23, but current Irish International and Trinity Meteors Basketball Player Edel Thornton has had packed a lot into her career already – from college basketball in the USA with Quinnipiac University in Hamden Connecticut, representing the Irish International basketball team at senior women’s level, playing for Brunell Ladies Basketball Club and now playing with Trinity Meteors.
But all of it may not have happened if she hadn’t got a push from her friend’s mother. “I was in first class so about 7, 8 or 9, around that age. I was actually dragged in the first time I went. My friend, we used to alternate houses every Wednesday. Her older sister was going and her mam was like ‘oh you guys should go as well’. I did not want to go. I did not want to go at all. They dragged me up and thank god they pushed me in the door. I never looked back from then, but if I didn’t go in that day… I don’t know”, she told ‘Bench Talk’ host Conor Meany.
WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH EDEL:
Thornton has had many coaches down through the years and has learnt a range of different skills from each of them. She believes that the relationships you build through Irish basketball is what makes the game so special. Brunell Ladies Basketball Club head coach Kieran O’Leary was her steady rock the whole way through.
“Just that grit and like never-say-die like you know, you could be down 20 or up 20, but you play the exact same way the entire game. That’s something he instilled in me quickly and I think all of us kind of felt like that and you battled for the person next to you. That’s one of the biggest traits I learned early and thankfully I did, as I carried it the whole way though.”
Thornton was involved in two National Cup back-to-back wins at U18 and U20 level on the same weekend, where she also picked up MVP in both games.
“We build up the National Cup, the National Cup is what you want. In the moment, it feels like nothing else matters, like that was our sole focus. To win both of them… We won the U18’s on the Saturday and you know, you’re really happy and whatever, but then you need to recuperate and have to play again tomorrow and that’s it. It was almost like we held ourselves to an expectation, because we were that group who didn’t lose. Like we never lost. That was the attitude we had. It was going to take someone tougher to beat us, that was our thing. To win the both of them was the icing on the cake for everything that we worked for.”
Thornton was in her mid-teens when she realised that she wanted to go away to play college basketball in America. She consulted several coaches and friends before making the decision to go to Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, somewhere which Basketball Ireland Hall of Famer, Susan Moran had suggested. Although she enjoyed her stint in the USA, Thornton acknowledged the challenges some people face when away from home and in unknown territory:
“The first two months were really tough, you’re training day-in and day-out. You think you’re fit, then I got there and it was a whole different level of fitness. I was lifting, I did a bit here to prep before I left, but it wasn’t to the extent of what they were doing. It was more the mental adjustment too actually, you know when you’re outside of the gym, not worrying about what just happened and actually taking the rest you needed.”
When she started to put herself out there and introduce herself to more people it got easier. The first few months were the hardest for her, but then after Christmas she couldn’t wait to go back. She believes that going away has made her who she is today, more than a basketball player.
“At some stage, you want to be known as something other than the basketball person and I think the States really gave me that. It definitely did. I had the ability to be whoever I wanted to be in the States. When I was at home I didn’t have that, because I grew up and I wanted to be the basketball girl, I wanted to be really good and I wanted everyone to know who I was, but when I got to the States, I wanted to become Edel. I just wanted to be me and find out who I was. At that age of 18 going away, I was still transitioning from being the basketball player to being the person.”
Thornton says she had to adapt her game for college basketball.
“It was a bit unnatural at the beginning just because Brunell were known for freestyling, running the ball. To be honest in QU, we ran the ball an awful lot as well and that’s where I struggled, I think. I was like ‘oh were going to run, its going to be the perfect fitting’, but we ran in a structure. Everyone had a lane and everyone ran that lane.”
Thornton is also very much looking forward to her upcoming season with Trinity Meteors and being back playing in the Super League.
“I think we have what it takes to be competitive in the League. We do have a couple of girls coming back next year and hopefully we’ll get two good Americans in as well and we should be good to go. Honestly, we’re really excited to play the best. You always want to play against the best in the country.”
Episode 7 of Bench Talk featuring current Mayo GAA footballer and EJ-Sligo All-Stars Aidan O’Shea takes place on Wednesday, July 22nd at 8pm on Basketball Ireland’s social channels.