Belfast Star bounce off their new men's Super League basketball season
NEW players, new coach and new hope for Belfast Star as they bounce off their new men's Super League basketball season at Methodist College tomorrow night (7.00) with UL Eagles being the visitors and both teams hoping to improve on their finish last season.
Darren O'Neill returns as head coach with Star with a much-changed panel of players, including three new imports, for a change. In the past few years, Star began their league campaign without American aid but not so this time.
From California comes Oklahoma-born shooting guard/forward Greg Womack who played in Spain last season. He is a 6'5” product of the University of Arizona Christian while Eric Benedict, a 5'7” point guard, has arrived from Albuquerque. Ironically, he has an Irish passport.
The third new recruit for Star is English guard Will Hopper from Sheffield who has played in Malta and Denmark.
He is a Bosman player but not available for this weekend as his residency has not been completed.
Of course, only two foreign players can appear on the team sheet at any match.
Apart from the imports, Star will have a number of new local players included in their overall squad this season, among them Sean Quinn, younger brother of twins Conor and Aidan who are at college in the US after a couple of high profile seasons with Star.
Sean, a three-point shooter, has been starring with Star in the Ulster Leagues over the past few years.
“We have, of course, many of our players from last season back again and we are looking forward to the new campaign.
“The new players have been training with us but it may take as while for them to mould into our style of play,” says Coach O'Neill, who was in charge of the Irish U20 team during the summer European Championship.
O'Neill, a former coach with Star when the Belfast club won the men's top league division. He will be assisted by experienced Danny Fulton.
“I don't know a lot about the present Limerick team but with Pat Price coaching this season they will be well tuned,” stresses the Star coach.
“They probably don't know a lot about us, either.”
Eagles have brought in 6'6” guard Stats Battle from North Carolina and have high scorers Neil Campbell, Diarmuid O'Shea and Eoin Quigley still on board.
When Star visited Limerick last season they won by 11 points but, in the return match as Methody, Star lost by 12.
The new season actually begins tonight when Super League newcomers Tralee Warriors travel to play last year's winners UCC Demons.
Ulster will have five teams in the various leagues this season with Ulster University Elks playing in both the men's and women's Division One.
Ulster Rockets will, again, be a force in women's Division One while LYIT Donegal are entered in men's Division One. Star is the only northern side in action this weekend but, apart from Rockets, the other will begin their campaigns next week.
Men's Super League
Tomorrow – Belfast Star v UL Eagles (Methodist College, 7.00).