Contributed by: Troy Thompson
Talented US college basketballer Alex Starling has been signed by the Sydney Swans after testing showed he had the athletic potential to make the switch to the AFL.
Starling, 22, is finishing college in Florida but will make several visits to Sydney this year to meet with Swans’ coaching staff and develop his football skills.
He has been signed under the AFL’s International Scholarship Scheme, which will allow him to both train with the Swans and complete his four year degree at Bethune-Cookman University. If things progress as planned, he will be recruited to the Swans’ senior list as an International Rookie in 2013.
Starling, who is 196cms and 93 kilograms, was identified by the head coach of the QBE Sydney Swans Academy, Paul Roos, during a trip to the US in 2011.
Roos held a two day mini draft assessment camp in Redondo Beach, California, last June, attended by four college basketballers who were identified through Roos’ network of contacts in the US.
The assessment camp was funded for the Swans by the Basil Sellers International Program.
Starling, who has been a standout basketballer at his university, showed the most exciting potential.
He then came to Australia last August, again through the program funded by long-time Swans’ supporter, Basil Sellers.
Starling took part in three weeks of testing at the Swans’ base in Moore Park where he was assessed by Swans’ senior coach John Longmire, development manager Stuart Maxfield, head of player personnel, Kinnear Beatson, and Roos.
Roos says they were all impressed. “Alex is not only an outstanding basketballer but he has also played American football as well,’’ Roos said. “We saw an amazing athlete with great speed, great hands and an incredible capacity to learn a new game.
“Of course we understand Alex has a lot of work to do but certainly he has the right attitude to attack this enormous challenge,’’ Roos said.
Beatson, who heads the Swans’ recruiting team, said it was exciting to unearth a player with Starling’s qualities.
“We believe Alex has the physical attributes required by the modern AFL key position player, which are difficult to find via the National Draft,’’ Beatson said.
“He displayed the ability to grasp the skills of our game, particularly soft hands in marking contests and the capacity to weight his kicks. We are excited about his potential and what the future holds for Alex. He showed in his time with us last year that he also has a fierce desire to succeed,’’ Beatson said.
Starling is known as a strong competitor and leader on the basketball court, and is renowned for his defensive pressure.
“One of the most important things about Alex is we believe he can transfer those attitudes to our game,’’ Roos said. “He is very keen to come to Australia and have a real go at making it in the AFL.’’
Starling will make several visits to Sydney this year and his training and skill acquisition will be overseen by Roos, Maxfield, and development coach, George Stone.
Training an athlete from a foreign country and code will be familiar territory for Stone. He is credited with teaching Swans’ premiership player Tadhg Kennelly the finer points of Australian Rules football after he came to Sydney from Ireland having not handled an oval ball.
The Swans have also recently had success with Mike Pyke, the former Canadian rugby International who is developing into a talented ruckman/forward.
World Footy News