Connaghan, Koci to hoop it up in Ireland

Connaghan
Connaghan
Posted: August 06, 2014

FRIENDS OF RECENT college grads Pat Connaghan and Jess Koci are most likely green with envy.

Connaghan, who played basketball at University of the Sciences, and Koci, who played at La Salle, are among 13 international athletes headed to Ireland this month thanks to Victory Scholarships they received through the Sport Changes Life Foundation.

They will spend a year mentoring at-risk youth while playing ball and attending graduate business classes at the Institute of Technology in Carlow, about 50 miles south of Dublin.

"I found out about it from my high school coach," said Connaghan, referring to Bill Dooley, the former coach of Chestnut Hill Academy who is now an assistant at the University of Hartford. "He [once] coached [Sports Changes Life founder] Gareth Maguire on the Irish national team."

Koci, who played high school ball at Archbishop Ryan, said she heard about it from former teammate Michele McCaughern, who participated in the program last year.

Connaghan and Koci will spend approximately 10 hours a week helping youngsters hone their basketball skills. The goal, according to the organization's website, is to work with "young people who know more about conflict than friendship and have few or no role models in their lives to help them find inspiration in their world."

Koci laughed when asked if she knew much about Irish culture. "I'm actually all Italian," she said. "I'm hoping we have some down time so I can see everything."

Connaghan knows a bit more. He said he plays guitar - he's had paying gigs - and has brushed up on some Irish tunes.

"[Groups like] Dropkick Murphys and the Pogues and songs like 'Whisky in the Jar,' " he said. "Maybe I can play at some pubs."

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