Patriots must stay sharp and avoid mental lapses
Dealing with injury is part and parcel of an athlete’s sporting career. Depending on the severity of the injury some athletes are never the same and even opt for early retirement. On the flipside there is a different breed of athlete, the one that perseveres against all odds, works their way back and overcomes the woes of injury.
Patriots Basketball Club player, Prince Ibeh is one such player. Having had a successful playing career in college, Ibeh suffered a succession of injuries, which cut short his NBA dreams.
“College was good. I finished off strong in college. My senior year was my best. Going into my first year as a pro was rough. I had a string of injuries that robbed me of opportunities,” said the former Texas Longhorn.
His first brush with injury came at a huge cost for him as at the time the England-born player was a potential second round pick ahead of the 2016 NBA draft.
“I remember in the pre-draft process, I tore my quad. At that point, the projection for me was somewhere late in the second round. I did not get the opportunity to pursue that,” said Ibeh, whom fortune temporarily smiled on following his recovery. “Once I got better, the Nets signed me to a G-League deal and then called me up for the rest of the season. That was in the 2017 season, I believe.”
As soon as the 26-year-old made recovery another injury again curtailed his progress. At the same time, the prospect of playing in the NBA was diminishing, forcing him to seek fortunes elsewhere.
That summer, I stayed in Brooklyn and trained with the Nets team. Unfortunately, I got a stress fracture on my back. It was another setback. I was out for another couple of months. After that I joined the Nets’ G-League team in Long Island,” said Ibeh. “That year I played well, and right before the G-League showcase, I tore a ligament in my thumb. “After the surgery from that, I was done. I was frustrated with all the injuries and decided to go overseas.”
The sojourns overseas saw Ibeh play in Japan (Yokohama B Corsairs), the Philippines (NorthPort Batang Pier), Germany (Hamburg Towers) and England (Plymouth Raiders). In his stint in Japan, the 6-8 forward/centre was again derailed by injury. On his next stop in the Philippines, things began to turn around for him.
“I went to Japan, where things were ok, although the team did not do well. I also hurt my ankle. So, I had to sit out a little early than I would have liked,” said Ibeh. “The Philippines was great. I played some of my best basketball there. I reinvigorated my career, and it was a chance to showcase what I could do.
“From there I went to Germany, where I also played well, but unfortunately Covid started last year. This year, I was played in the British BBL, and helped the team do things they had not achieved in a long time.”
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Battle-hardened, Ibeh seems to have overcome his struggles with injury and has been able to focus on playing the game at a high level. However, he holds the view that his earlier battles may have prepared him for the trials that lie ahead.
“It was difficult; it is not like I muscled through all the time. It was tough mentally, especially with the first injury, because it happened before my professional career could start. I felt like I lost everything before I even got a chance,” said Ibeh.
“So it took me a while to rebuild my mental strength and to start believing in myself again. Now, when a setback occurs, I recall those days. I have built up the mental toughness to deal with challenges in the future. It could be another injury, issues with a coach or player changes. Any adversity that comes, I have to be ready. I have dealt with these tests already. So, I am confident in what I can do.”
This new version of the Ibeh was there for all to see, as he suited up for the Patriots’ Basketball Africa League (BAL) inaugural campaign in Rwanda. He played with confidence and was aggressive for the Rwandese club in the opening game of the tournament last Sunday against Nigeria’s Rivers Hoopers. The forward scored 11 points, including two monster jams, and crashed 11 boards as the home side romped to an 83-60 victory.
While Ibeh was happy victory over Hoopers, he feels as a team they were sluggish and that maybe some nerves had set in.
“We did not come to the game with the necessary intensity required. It’s normal at this stage of the tournament. It was probably first game jitters,” said Ibeh, who has roots in Nigeria. “We were not concerned. We remained level headed. The coaching staff made the necessary adjustments.
“I liked the way we pushed the pace and the movement we had on the floor. We finished with 19 or 20 assists, so are we playing the right way. We don’t rely on an individual. We are sharing the ball, giving the open guys a look. We have to be aware of mental lapses and stay sharp.”
The Rwanda international also credits the Patriots coaching staff led by Alan Major for the opening day victory.
“It’s just the way we practise. A lot of credit must go to Alan and the assistants for preparing us well. We do extensive film and studying the other team. It’s also a good group of guys. We like playing with each other. There are no egos, so we were able to do good things on the court,” said Ibeh.
Having started the tournament on the right footing, Ibeh feels the Patriots as presently constructed, can go all the way.
“Absolutely! I would not have come here if I thought we could not win. I never join anything to lose or come in second place. We have the talent. We have to go out there and perform every night,” concluded Ibeh.
*Patriots face GNBC of Madagascar at 2pm