Star up for their biggest challenge but former player stands in the way
Coach Adrian Fulton says there is no doubt former Belfast Star man Paul Dick will be the biggest threat when All Ireland Superleague champions Tralee come to town this evening.
The most important game of the season so far takes place tonight in De La Salle College (6.30pm) as leaders Tralee clash with second-placed Star with victory giving the Belfast side a great foundation to go on and challenge for the Superleague crown.
"There's no doubt it would be the perfect Christmas present if we could get the win," said coach Fulton.
At the same period last year, Star were leading the way in the Superleague having played some scintillating basketball but this year it has been a little more to do with grit as well as guile on the road to second spot.
"They will need all that and a little more this evening if Tralee are to fall - even though they defeated the champions on two occasions last season.
Fulton added: "There's no hiding from the fact that this is a huge game. I'm not going to play it down because as a team we are embracing this challenge -it's the biggest challenge in Irish basketball.
"Tralee have so many players who can hurt you but for me they have the best Irish player in the country in Paul Dick.
"He's a matchwinner and I couldn't believe that he didn't win the Player of the Year award last season.
"With Paul being a former player there are obviously a lot of connections here.
"We respect his ability and know he is going to be a big threat but there is also danger from many other areas as well. I think it's going to be an intriguing tactical battle because as coaches we know each other inside out."
Fulton has revealed that Liam Pettigrew - who has proven to be a key player for Star this season - has not suffered a broken rib as first suspected, following the away win over Templeogue last weekend, while Conor Quinn is aiming to be back by the end of January.
In their two biggest games last year Star came up short, losing in the National Cup semi-finals and then in the All Ireland play-off decider - when they had to play without American Mike Davis. Now they have the opportunity to truly show their title credentials with victory over Tralee.
"If we can win this game then it means our destiny is within our own hands and we lose then we're two wins behind Tralee and that would be a tough gap to close.
"That's the reality of this Superleague - whoever finishes above Tralee will be champions and I believe my guys have the quality to go and win this game."