Alex Starling signing with the Adelaide 36ers at the start of the NBL24 season was one of the feel good stories of the off-season.
However, the 34-year-old, who became an Australian citizen earlier this year, had a mixed start to his NBL career.
He had played nine minutes in the opening game against Brisbane and eight against Melbourne United on the same weekend, pulling in six boards.
However, opportunities had become few and far between since, registering three DNPs, until a breakout against the Perth Wildcats.
Starling played 12 minutes, scoring six points and had six rebounds as he showcased a bit of what he can do at the top level.
Speaking to The Inner Sanctum, Starling said it’s good to have a ‘break out game’ and it was easy to stay positive despite the slow start.
“It feels good. I was going through the paces and everything else, getting a couple of DNPs and just knowing that I can contribute more and obviously, just getting the opportunity and making the most of it, feels great,” he said.
“I train a lot of kids, developing the youth and junior basketball and that’s always what I preach – just staying ready, being ready when the opportunity comes, never quit, keep your head up.”
Starling said a pre-season chat with coach CJ Bruton reminded the 36ers mentor he’s ready and raring whenever.
“It’s something that I told CJ, initially when I signed, and I told him back in the NBL Blitz and earlier this season, that regardless if I play two minutes or 20 minutes, you know, I want to give you everything that I have, and I’m gonna leave it all out there,” he said.
“As long as he knows that, like whether it’s one minute, 10 minutes, whatever the case may be, I’m gonna leave everything out that in court, and I’m happy with that.”
One member of the coaching team has been particular important for Starling on his journey – assistant and club legend Scott Ninnis.
Ninnis has worked with Starling at NBL1 side South Adelaide and the duo won a championship together.
“It’s been great. We still have our talks, catchups obviously even more now because at South we train twice a week, while here we train five times a week plus games. But, it’s been very handy though to have that familiar face around,” he said.
Last season, the 36ers’ off-court issues were well documented, but Starling said it’s quite the opposite this season.
“It’s been great. One thing, it’s my first year being amongst the group, I’m actually in the playing group,” he said.
“It’s just a great group of guys, everyone comes in works hard, everyone gets along, but it’s been amazing.”
Adelaide 36ers owner Grant Kelley told The Inner Sanctum Starling has been a great addition.
“He has phenomenal commitment, work rate and is a very, very good talent,” he said.
“Coupled with a back story that all South Australians can warm to.”
“We were at the defensive end for the second half, and he caught everything…they had no answer to him.
“The cynic would say he wasn’t scouted, but I think he announced himself to the league as a defensive threat.
“He showed he belonged, and I think he will get better and better as the season progresses.”
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