Connect with us


Watch: ‘We’re doing something right’ says Ferrante after Starlites’ quadruple triumph

Starlites players celebrate with the BOV Men's Division One trophy. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Finals MVP Craven credits team’s leadership for success

Before the 2023-24 season began, Malta Division One champions Starlites JSD were undoubtedly the team with a target on its back after winning two consecutive championship titles. The Malta Basketball Association (MBA) had just introduced its new regulation which allowed foreigners to play as locals after three years of residing in Malta, bringing with it fresh possibilities for clubs to battle for supremacy.

At the end of the season, however, it was the only club without these local foreigners which triumphed as Starlites lifted all four domestic trophies and serial-winner coach Paul Ferrante told the Times of Malta it was finally time for a break.

“The first thing that comes to mind right now is that I’m finally going to take a break,” Ferrante said.

“These past two or three weeks, we’ve been at it every day – I think yesterday was our first off-day – from game-film and other things. Game-film has to be prepared as well so, usually, one day is never enough. But it’s a great thing.”

Winning the title three times in a row is already an achievement for any coach, but winning every competition that Maltese Basketball had to offer across eight months is a target not many deem realistic. For the Starlites mentor, such an accolade was previously his career’s end goal but he now believes he’s changed his mind.

“I’ve always said that if I win all four trophies in one season, I would retire,” Ferrante joked, “but I don’t think that will be the case as this is the third-straight league title win against Mellieha – all with a 3-0 scoreline – and 2-0 in the semifinals, so I believe we’re doing something right.”

Asked about the crop of players he had at his disposal during this streak of title-winning seasons, the Starlites coach said that even though the team’s import players changed every year, the club’s system and high-level foreigners continuously provided tools for a successful nucleus.

“Every year, we’ve changed our foreign players, but we’ve always managed to bring in new import players who possess a good level and can play well with the rest of the team,” he explained.

“We’ve got a group of players who have risen from the nursery and stayed together. In fact, our Under-23s have won the league three times in a row as well. We always get a player or two who makes it to the senior team but generally, all of them manage to play with our system.

Starlites players lift coach Paul Ferrante (centre) after winning the Division One championship. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

“I wish I could keep a few of the foreign players from one season to another, but to keep them for a second year, unfortunately, their agents always ask for more money. Our foundation has always been building around players from our nursery, and giving them the skills to compete.”

While the rest of the Division One clubs have all utilised the local-foreigner regulation, the closest to that in Starlites’ case was Maltese-Australian guard Matt Attard, a sharpshooting three-point scorer who joined the club the previous season.

Ferrante believes the new regulation has made the league much more difficult but lauded his team’s squad depth.

“The regulation about local foreigners has made the league much tougher – this season was not easy at all,” he remarked.

“Mellieha had Vule (Jandric) and (Corrado) Mercurio playing as locals plus they had David Bugeja who is the Malta captain, so they were not a soft team at all and they showed it especially in Game 1 and 3 when they gave us a good run for our money. I think we had more leeway for our rotation with more fresh legs which helped our case.”

Craven wins Finals MVP award

Last summer’s transfer period can be considered shaky for the three-time league winners with Canadian forward Stephane Ingo leaving the team before the start of the season and his replacement – Malik Lorquet- doing the same right after the John Tabone Shield. Kurt James was eventually brought in as the team’s third import player of the season.

Starlites forward Davonte Craven (centre) receives the Division One MVP award. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The team’s first summer signing however, Davonte Craven, proved to be just what they needed as together with fellow US forwards Christian Hinckson and James, the trio finished as Starlites’ top scorers of the season. Craven was eventually voted Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) by the press across the three games against Mellieha.

Speaking to the Times of Malta, Craven said he wasn’t expecting it but showed enthusiasm after his hard work throughout the season.

“I was surprised! I just wanted to win the game, you could have given this to any one of my teammates and I would have been just as happy but I’m happy for myself, I worked really hard for it,” he said.

Asked for his thoughts about winning the championship, Craven said it was an expectation Ferrante had set for the players and that they had all delivered.

“I’m just happy! We worked so hard for this all year,” the former Rust College Bearcats forward said.

“Before I got here, Coach told me what he expected. He had won the championship twice in a row and he expected nothing different, so we went out and did that. So many people worked so hard every day, and our great friends came to every game, it’s exciting and so good to see.

“(We had to) keep our composure, we had great leaders like Alec (Felice Pace), KJ (James), Chris (Hinckson), Matt (Scerri) who made sure we don’t stay down no matter what the difference is. We’ve seen something like that before, so we knew how to face adversity and just came out and finished the job.

“It was really up to our leaders, they made sure to keep everybody in check and without them we wouldn’t be here.”

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


World Cup News


More in Basketball