Belfast Telegraph

Replacement Marello proves the perfect fit

Net gains: Ben Marello was in superb form for Belfast Star
Net gains: Ben Marello was in superb form for Belfast Star
David Kelly

By David Kelly

Basketball is in Ben Marello’s DNA so maybe, after all, we shouldn’t be that surprised at how he has made such a major impact at Belfast Star over the past three weeks.

Marello was brought in to temporarily replace fellow American Delaney Blaylock (below) who, after starting so well for Star in the All Ireland Super League, sustained an injury that has subsequently ruled him out for around six weeks.

Arriving in the early hours of a Friday morning before travelling to Maree for a National Cup clash on the Saturday, Marello would have been forgiven for making a quiet start to life with Star, but in contrast the 23-year-old drove his new club into the quarter-finals.

That was no flash in the pan performance as since then Marello has comfortably filled Blaylock’s boots and off the court says he has gelled instantly with the Star lads.

Last weekend both Marello and CJ Fulton were on fire as they won away to joint Super League leaders Eanna and the South Florida University graduate is determined to help the Belfast men win some silverware.

Despite being signed on a two-month contract, Marello revealed he would love to secure an extension.

“I have to wait and see what will happen because I know I was brought in on a short deal because of Delaney’s injury but if I had the choice I would love to stay and help bring the championship or the cup back to Belfast,” said Marello.

“Everyone, from the players to the coaches through to the management have been fantastic. They have given me great support and that’s why I’ve managed to settle in so well.

“Ultimately I was brought here to make sure that Star win games and that’s my mission — it’s not about my stats as such, it’s about Star winning and I feel that we’re now getting a real rhythm.”

Marello’s roots in the sport go back to his Italian-American grandfather Mauro Panaggio who holds the record for the most coaching wins in the history of the Continental Basketball Association, while uncle Dan Panaggio was an assistant coach with the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers.

“I think it was inevitable I became a basketball player because it’s just in the family blood, and in that way I can relate to CJ Fulton, whose dad is obviously the coach of Star and I know his grandfather also coached Star,” added Marello, who hopes Star will be able to gain even more momentum with a win against Dublin Lions this Saturday night in La Salle.

“I’m loving my time with Star. There is a really good spirit among the guys and we’re improving all the time.”

Star chairman Bill McCotter admitted he could have not have found a better replacement for Blaylock and both he and coach Adrian Fulton will relish the thought of having both men available for the cup quarter-final against Eanna on November 30.

That could prove to be one of the last games Marello plays for Star if his contract is not renewed, but whether he heads home or is able to be kept on, McCotter has been pleased with his contribution.

“All I can say is that we have been very fortunate to have Ben come in,” said a delighted McCotter.

“He gets on well with everybody, he can really play and overall he is so professional in everything he does.”

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