CJ Fulton says he is ready to grasp a golden opportunity that could pave the way to him becoming a professional basketball player.
The 18-year-old was recently named the All-Ireland Superleague Young Player of the Year, part of a clean sweep for Belfast Star whose title-winning exploits also led to dad Adrian Fulton picking up the Coach of the Year award and American Delaney Blaylock voted Player of the Year.
As voting was by their Irish basketball peers, the triple hitter of gongs was a fine testimony to Star's rise to Superleague Championship glory for the first time in 21 years. Now CJ, whose point guard exploits were critical to the club's success, is counting down to his move to The Winchendon School, a mile from the centre of Boston.
The private preparatory school has a long history of high-level basketball and his year at Winchendon will offer the St Malachy's College student the ideal chance to showcase his skills in front of Division One and Two university coaches who would be prepared to make him an offer of a scholarship.
The teenager admits that winning the All-Ireland Superleague title helped him decide that the time was right to make a move to the States. While there were other offers on the table, such as one from a Spanish academy and another from an academy in Florida, both CJ and his dad felt a year at Winchendon would be invaluable.
"It was a massive decision for me, leaving family and friends behind, going out of my comfort zone and leaving Belfast Star but I wanted to challenge myself and develop as a basketball player and in life generally. So, I've got some trepidation but also excitement about the thought of going to the States," said the most gifted Irish basketball teenager for a generation.
"The fact that I had helped play my part in bringing the Superleague title back to Star did help me feel more comfortable about making the move. I always wanted to be part of a team that gave the club some silverware and to do it with my dad as coach and my granda as assistant coach was extra special - that's something I'll cherish for the rest of my life.
"The league I'm going to be in is very, very competitive and the season will be gruelling. It starts in December and runs to March with about three games a week. It will be a whole new experience and one that I believe will improve me as a player a lot. At the moment I'm just trying to stay fit at home."
Dad Adrian is delighted with the move, even though it means he will have to lead Star's defence of the title without his gifted son.
"Well, I've told the lads that with this lockdown I've got the time to get into the best shape I've been in in years so I'll be coming back to playing at this rate!" joked coach Fulton, who was thrilled that Star swept the board in the Superleague awards.
"It's very nice to have the awards when they come from your peers. CJ had a very good season and Delaney Blaylock was outstanding. He was very coachable, he didn't have a big ego and he gave us so much throughout the season and it says a lot that he missed five games due to injury and still got the vote from his fellow players. He gave our fans some magical moments when we all stood with our mouths open at what he could do.
"As for CJ, this move to Winchendon is a great opportunity. I had the same chance and didn't go for it but he's a far better player than I ever was. I think with the coach they have and the whole set-up it is going to be a great experience."