Solent Stars - Memories

by Jim Kelly


Toronto, Sept.8, 2001

Hello Solent Stars Fans, X-Players, Coaches, and Team Administrators,

I had a message from our "do everything guy" at the club Jim Rumsey asking me to do a little update as well as a look back at my days in Eastleigh with the Stars. I can't say that I'm much at writing these little stories, but I'm going to give it my best shot.

Well since my days in England, I have bounced around a bit on the global basketball circuit. I had seven years in Germany, followed by three in the Philippines before settling in with my present team the Toronto Raptors where I begin my eighth season. In my travels with the Raptors, I haven't had much of an opportunity to touch base back in England, but I do get to some of the cities where I thought we had some memorable game in our European competitions.

While passing through Croatia and visiting Zagreb, I can never forget how we travelled for almost two days via bus, planes, trains, cars and taxis, before we arrived and then still had enough gas in our tank to come away with an amazing victory over Cibona. I still see some of the players from Milan, Italy who have now turned into coaches or general mangers and the conversation usually gets around to our victory there in the Euro Cup. In all the games that I have watched there, I don't think that I have yet seen a team come into Italy and play a first half like we did and walk out with the victory.

Probably not so memorable was the bus ride back to the hotel that night as the Milan supporters rained garbage, rocks, and whatever on us as they wished us a "safe journey home??!!" I do remember clearly when we arrived back in Eastleigh and the local paper had the headline "Solent Coach Stoned". I only hope they were referring to the bus and not the basketball coach! I still can fondly recall these games clearly as these two victories are as good as it gets on any level of basketball that I have been involved with.

As for those long journeys through the night all over England to come to small locker rooms but big crowds to pull against us, I think it was calming influence of Paul Philp snoring away in the back seat no matter if it was a thirty minute or a three hour drive, I mean that man could sleep anywhere! As always our ever ready assistant Steve Fitz always had things organized and scouted out where ever we went, right down to the fish and chipper on the motorway back home which made things so much easier.

After a great early season run fuelled by some big scoring games from Roy Lewis, we came up to the first big pressure game of the year, the Asda Cup at the Royal Albert Hall where I thought they only had concerts. Our veteran leader Mark Saiers came up with his best game of the year to get us through that one as I believe Mark was the hands down MVP that night. From then on I knew that we had something special going with the Stars and I was just hoping that I didn't screw it up. Big game performances from John Johnson and TJ Robinson became regular occurrences after that as we rolled onto successive Championships in England. About the only thing that was unpredictable after that was which story Tony Watson was going to use to miss a practice or clinic responsibility that we had to do. I mean Tony had such great lines as to why he couldn't be somewhere, that I find myself using some of the same excuses today whenever I find myself in a time crunch problem.

I can recall us getting a lift from the late season play of Karl Tatham and Mike Griffiths that got us over the hump in the Wembley Playoffs. I just wasn't prepared for Steve Fitz's wife Cecila's "mild" curry that we had the day after the championships as we celebrated and I still think that was probably the last time I've dined on Indian cuisine.

All in all in was a pretty good run for us that year and I find myself going down memory lane many a night when I stuck in a car facing a long drive back to where ever. Although I haven't had the chance to get back to Eastleigh for some years now, I still hear that we play at Fleming Park Leisure Centre and I hope one day to get back there to see the Stars in action again.

All the best, Jim Kelly

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