Belfast Telegraph

Cairns bringing a taste of Italy to Star's trophy bid

Big return: Keelan Cairns is back in Belfast Star colours
Big return: Keelan Cairns is back in Belfast Star colours
David Kelly

By David Kelly

Keelan Cairns says his experience in Italy can play a key part in helping Belfast Star strive for silverware this season.

Cairns, a Star man through and through, spent last season in Mola di Bari in the Italian league as part of the Mola Newbasket team but returned in the summer after agreeing a deal with Star chairman Bill McCotter.

It wasn't that difficult for the Irish international as he had looked on from afar at the manner in which Star had been transformed into a force again in the All Ireland Superleague by coaches Adrian Fulton and Javan Dupree.

Fulton and Dupree were key elements to Star's heyday in the 1990s and their enthusiasm and knowledge is now at the core of the Belfast side's drive for glory. Cairns is relishing their guidance, while also admitting that his time Mola di Bari has changed him as a player.

"Being in that environment as a full-time professional was great for me. There was a real sense of accountability for how you play in every game - you have to deliver every time you step on to the court and I've tried to bring that back with me to Star," said Cairns, who has been joined at Star by American Delaney Blaylock and Serbian DJ Stankovic.

"In training we have to be very intense from the start and Adrian and JD have been great in how they have been working with us. When I was in Italy I was keeping and eye on how things were going and it was good to see the change but I was just hoping that they wouldn't win anything without me being part of it!

"Seriously, though, I did want to come back and be part of the club again and particularly at this time because we have a lot of talent in the side and I really believe that we can be fighting for a trophy this year. The talent has always been there but it never quite came together but I can see that something has changed."

Star travel to Killester this weekend on the back of a win over Templeogue and a close loss away to Superleague champions Tralee last Saturday night. Both performances were very encouraging, according to Cairns who feels as a team they have yet to full gel together.

Blaylock and Stankovic are still getting used to the Irish scene, while Cairns is fitting back in to the side, which is one of the youngest in the Superleague.

"I feel we are still coming together as a unit. In the first two games, we've had five and four players in double figures - we just need to sort out things at the other end of the court," added Cairns.

"That will come and when it does, with the firepower we have, I think we will be a big threat to anyone. We've got this tough game against Killester this weekend but I'm confident we can go there and get the win."

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