Coach Darren O’Neill has hailed the influence of American Dillon Stith after Belfast Star pulled off an upset 82-78 victory away to DCU Saints in the All Ireland Premier League.
Travelling south with only eight players due to an injury crisis, Star came up with only their second win of the season and Stith was to the fore with a 28-point game-high return, while Keelan Cairns impressed as well with 25.
But Stith’s arrival has clearly had an impact on the players as the American has brought class and an intensity to the side which is rubbing off on those around him.
“There’s no doubt that Dillon given us more quality. I do think that had he been in from the start of the season we would have won more games at this stage,” said O’Neill.
“Not only is a fine basketball player but he’s a great guy, he gets on fantastically well with the other players and he has brought an enthusiasm that the other guys have responded to.
“He has been getting the scores that we need but he’s learning as well, and he will learn to be an even better professional.”
O’Neill is now hoping this first win for a couple of months will Star gain some momentum as they approach the midway point of the campaign.
He added: “After going out of the cup last weekend we were very disappointed. We had been in a winning position and then only scored one basket from 15 attempts.
“We talked about that and the guys responded. We were leading 31-26 after the first quarter and led at the break and then 68-58 going into the final quarter. Although we lost that last quarter we got the win and that gives everyone confidence.
“If there’s one thing this side doesn’t lack it’s character and they showed that on Saturday night.”