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Star Quality: Markel Starks

Cairns Taipans guard Markel Starks didn’t need any extra motivation to perform well on Friday night, but new Sydney Kings head coach Joe Connelly provided some anyway. Midway through the first quarter, with a shiny white sweat towel draped across his shoulder, Connelly engaged in some trash talk he thought might unsettle Starks. “Hey, that handle’s shaky!” Connelly screamed at Josh Childress while pointing towards the Taipans point guard advancing the ball. “That’s a shaky ball-handler, he’s shaky with it!” Starks was directly in front of the Sydney bench at the time, metres away from Connelly belittling his skills. The coach knew Starks could hear. That was the point. [ooyala code="RkNTBkeTqSwshCvaa51PMOg9Bjqor2JA" player_id="d5b993422b3e4b5ebd61f9e19ca2a6a5" width="1920" height="1080" auto="true"] “He’s from around my way back in the States,” the Taipans import said when asked about the trash-talk post-game. “He’s trained a couple of guys that I grew up with. It’s all fun. It’s a competitive spirit so that makes it even more fun.” You know what looked fun? Sticking a jumper one minute later off an ankle-breaking crossover and then turning to stare at Connelly from the other end of the floor. [ooyala code="ZiNTBkeTpbIvVnimuHnxrs9gsMwyqvGO" player_id="d5b993422b3e4b5ebd61f9e19ca2a6a5" width="1920" height="1080" auto="true"] Fox Sports broadcasters Matt Russell and Derek Rucker called it well. “Starks, the pull-up jumper is sweet and Markel looks straight at the Kings bench,” called Russell. “Tommy Garlepp is still looking to see where Starks went,” followed Rucker. “He hit him with a move and made him fall backwards. That was an outstanding move from Starks.” Connelly and Starks both hail from the same American state, Maryland, and while Joe was working as an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards, Markel was playing ball at the nearby Georgetown University. “We’re pretty familiar with one another, just through different people,” Starks said Perhaps Connelly might be slightly more familiar with the former Hoya after last night. More familiar with his stank face if nothing else? “Yes sir, yes sir,” Starks laughed. Truth be told, Connelly’s trash-talk had an obvious impact on Starks Friday night and the explosive guard was in attack mode from that point on. After crossing up Garlepp on the right side, Starks used his ‘shaky handles’ the very next play to do the same on the left. [ooyala code="I3NTBkeTrh7BG5r5c0bGeufx2mE2VdPL" player_id="d5b993422b3e4b5ebd61f9e19ca2a6a5" width="500" height="400" auto="false"] Starks finished the game with 18 points on 7/13 shooting to go along with 5 assists and 2 steals as the Taipans grabbed a 101-83 win. It was an excellent return to form for the point guard after a couple of sub-par performances. “Everybody talks so you definitely hear the whispers; ‘Starks hasn’t really done anything the past two games’,” Starks said. “I just didn’t really get into a good flow against Adelaide … Then you go to Townsville and pick up two early fouls. It was what it was.” Despite the ups and downs – for both himself and the team – Starks remains confident about the rest of the season ahead. “At the end of the day I’m trying to be the best player I can be for this team. I really do believe that we are a playoff team – possibly a championship team – but there are a lot of really good teams in this league and the league is ultra-competitive.” One thing’s for sure, Starks is relishing the opportunity to learn from reigning NBL Coach of the Year, Aaron Fearne. “I love playing for Coach Fearne and I really, really mean that,” Starks said. “I’m really enjoying it. Through the good and the bad, because at the end of the day I know that he’s trying to make me better.” As for Joe Connelly’s trash-talk, Starks believes the new Sydney coach was actually paying him a compliment. “For him to have done that, I take it as a badge of honour.”
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