For many people, the move from one country to another is a process filled with stress, anxiety and anxiousness.
This was not the case for Shippensburg University freshman Eve Nealon.
Nealon, who is one of the two newest recruits on the SU women’s basketball team, is a native of Limerick, Ireland. Her journey to the United States began about a year ago.
It was early on in her competitive basketball career that Nealon realized if she wanted to take her game to the next level, staying in Ireland was not an option.
According to Nealon, no matter how much success her team saw on the court, basketball never received the attention it deserved compared to sports like rugby and field hockey. Nealon said she recalls games and even championships, where only seven to 10 people would be in attendance. However, she did not let the small amount of support get to her head.
During her tenure in Ireland, Nealon was as good as they come. She was a member of the Irish National Basketball Team and earned u15 All-Ireland honors. Additionally, she won u16 Girls All-Ireland Junior Basketball Cup with Crescent College Comprehensive.
While the accolades were nice, Nealon was hungry for better competition. It was in her senior year in high school that she crossed the Atlantic to The Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. It was at The Hill School where Nealon began to receive attention from colleges and universities and showcased her game against the top talents in the state.
Her 12 points, three assists, and two steals per game for The Hill School were eye-openers for college scouts. Nealon could not believe her dreams of playing basketball at the collegiate level were going to become a reality.
SU ended up being an easy choice for Nealon. With the location not too far from her friends in Pottstown and an engineering program that was non-existent at other state schools, Nealon knew SU is where she wanted to be for the next four years.
Officials announced on May 18 that Nealon would join the 14 returning players as a member of the SU women’s basketball team. Nealon’s ability to drive to the basket, drain the three-point shot and create opportunities for teammates provides a sensational roster depth for the Raiders.
Like most incoming freshmen, Nealon had butterflies in her stomach about starting college. Those worries vanished quickly as she began to meet her new teammates.
“I was nervous coming in as a freshman, but I quickly got to know my teammates and am really glad I have them right now,” Nealon said. “This team is so welcoming and has a great family atmosphere.”
Not only does Nealon enjoy the tight-knit relationship that her team brings but feels the same way toward the SU community. She said coming to a small town like Shippensburg is a lot different from her experiences back home in Ireland. And rightfully so — Limerick’s population of nearly 192,000 overshadows Shippensburg’s population of just under 6,000.
Despite the wide margin in population, Shippensburg has given Nealon the opportunity to express her love for the game of basketball. She credits herself as a basketball fanatic, saying she will watch NBA and college basketball games to wee hours of the morning.
“I could talk about basketball for hours,” Nealon said. “In Ireland, I didn’t have that. There was no talk of the NBA game last night or the game between two nationally ranked college basketball teams. It just didn’t happen.”
Nealon is eager to hit the ground running on her collegiate career. She feels she can provide a shooting spark to the Raiders’ roster. Despite coming off a 21-9 season and finishing first in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) east division, the Raiders struggled from behind the arc last season, shooting a mild .282.
In her senior campaign at The Hill School, Nealon shot above .400 from deep. With consistency like that from behind the three-point line, Nealon should give the Raiders the extra boost they need.
More than anything though, Nealon is ecstatic to be a part of a winning and well-recognized program here at SU.
“I’m just excited to get going. To see how far this team went last year and then just came up short makes me feel excited to see what’s in store for this season,” she said. “Fingers crossed we have a season, but if we do, I have high hopes for us, and I think we can go really far.”
With the uncertainty of a return to sports still looming, Nealon continues to sit on the edge of her seat. One thing is for certain, once the Raiders return to the court, Nealon is prepared make an immediate impact.