With the 2011/2012 season only a matter of weeks away, I will dedicate some time to those who I think are worth looking out for in the upcoming campaign.
Much has been heralded in the last few months about rising star Judd Trump but one of Trump’s best friends on the circuit is his housemate, Jack Lisowski, and he too is one to keep an eye on.
Born in Cheltenham, Lisowski first rose to fame in 2007 when he reached the final of Junior Pot Black before losing to Mitchell Mann.
However, shortly after, the then 16 year-old received the terrifying news that he had been diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma – a form of cancer.
The teen had recently left school to pursue a career in snooker but was forced to give up the game in an effort to battle the illness with an intense cycle of chemotherapy.
At such a young age, it was understandably a gut-wrenching experience and came shortly after the death of three-time Masters champion Paul Hunter.
However, with a mixture of his own courage and the support network that his family and friends provided, Lisowski’s health improved and his determination was rewarded when he was emotionally awarded the inaugural Paul Hunter Scholarship in 2009.
Having beaten the cancer, Lisowski refocused his efforts on the green baize and it wasn’t long before his ambitions of becoming professional were realised as he romped to an overwhelming victory in the old PIOS season – formerly the Amateur Tour of snooker but now has been replaced by Q-School.
This granted the young man a shot at the big time with a place on the Main Tour last year and it certainly came at the just the right time.
A year earlier, Lisowski would have had a paltry six ranking tournaments to contend in but, with the initiative of Barry Hearn and others, last season saw that figure rise to almost 20 with the introduction of the Players Tour Championship Series.
Indeed, it was here that Lisowski immediately stamped his intentions when he ousted, among others, Mark Selby in PTC Event 3 as he made a professional final for the first time – eventually running out of steam and losing out to Tom Ford 4-0.
The result was enough to earn him a place in the PTC Grand Finals in Dublin last March where, despite falling at the first hurdle, Lisowski was gaining invaluable experience in front of the cameras in his debut year.
In fact, the former European Amateur Championship semi-finalist had by this stage already qualified for the televised stages of the German Masters and the Welsh Open.
In the latter, Lisowski had UK Champion John Higgins under the ropes before a spirited fightback from the Scot edged the encounter in a deciding frame – Higgins would go on to take the title in Newport.
Although he failed in his quest to reach the World Championship in Sheffield for the first time and instead had to watch Trump take all the glory for being runner-up, Lisowski comfortably made it into the top 64 in the world that guaranteed him his place on the professional tour for the upcoming campaign.
Indeed, the fact he is placed 52nd is phenomenal given his lack of experience at this level.
Which leads me to believe that this youngster, who turns 20 a few days after the first PTC event in a fortnight, will follow in the footsteps of Trump and will soon be challenging for a place in the Top 16.
Sometimes the honeymoon effect of a maiden season can wear off in the following year but that is unlikely to happen with so many playing opportunities available now.
With the rolling ranking system in place whereby the standings are updated multiple times throughout the year, Lisoswki could find himself challenging for the Top 32 before long.
A mixture of the unbelievable talent that came from the early 1990s brigade – John Higgins, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Williams, Matthew Stevens, Stephen Lee, Paul Hunter – and the distinct lack of playing opportunities during the last decade meant that, arguably, a generation of potential talent was missed.
However, with the likes of Trump, Lisoswki and some others who I will be documenting over the coming days, the old guard may imminently be watching their coattails.