Tireless Starks, Hoyas host Seton Hall

Tireless Starks, Hoyas host Seton Hall
January 30, 2013, 12:45 am
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Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, Jason Clark. The trio of notable and recent vintage guards scored significant points in games - and with the Hilltop faithful for their respective starring roles in many a Georgetown win.

Markel Starks is working overtime trying to reach those heights. On some occasions, like Saturday's win over No. 5 Louisville, the chatty junior is already there.

When it comes to litany of responsibilities in a given season, Starks arguably already has the others beat.

"I'm not sure whether I agree with that," Hoyas coach John Thompson III said, "but I'm not sure I don't either.

The only upperclassman in the Hoyas' (14-4, 4-3 Big East) backcourt rotation, Starks is the second-leading scorer among active players. He leads the senior-less roster in assists and made 3-pointers. When a productive guard like Louisville's Peyton Siva needs defending, Starks get the nod - and lately he's been doing it all with nary a rest. Yep, that's a lot going on.

"He has a big responsibility with this team, absolutely," Thompson said following Tuesday's practice. "He has to score, he has to get other people shots, and he has to guard."

Georgetown hosts Seton Hall (13-7, 2-5) at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

While Freeman and Wright formed one of the most potent backcourt combinations ever to drive and dish in program history, they always had each other for on-court support. For three seasons, they also had the long-limbed Clark, who during his senior season was part of a deep roster.

The current Georgetown lineup is hardly barren, but certain voids make Starks invaluable. Sophomore Jabril Trawick and freshman D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera have produced in spots and like Starks bring a hefty amount of confidence onto the court, but there is no question who holds the title of backcourt leader.

"That's what Markel has been waiting for," said fellow junior Nate Lubick. "He's doing a great job, his production, his play, being a leader...He's a great kid, he's a great player and he's so talented."

Offensively against the Cardinals, Starks and Otto Porter each scored 17 points, the only two Hoyas in double figures. The 6-foot-1 guard averages 11.6 points and shoots 40 percent from beyond the arc.

Yet defensively is truly where Starks' scored points in the 53-51 win over the Cardinals as he held the assertive Siva without any.

Georgetown limited each of its last five opponents to under 40 percent shooting from the field. Taking a cue from its indefatigable guard certainly helps.

During the postgame press conference, Thompson said of Starks, "It’s easy to look at the points, and he hit big shots when we needed them, but probably more importantly fighting over those ball screens and staying in front of their guards. It’s hard work and I thought he did that all night."

All night is a good description of how Thompson uses Starks, who said he began conditioning work in preparation for his additional duties immediately after Georgetown's NCAA Tournament loss to NC State. '

Including the 38 minutes against the Cardinals, the Accokeek, Md. native and former Georgetown Prep star has played 187 of a possible 200 minutes over the last five games. Georgetown is 4-1 in that span.

"We're just playing some good ball," Starks said. "Let's not get too excited; we just won two straight games. I guess that's exciting for everyone else, but obviously we're looking for more. Hopefully we can obtain it."

Obtaining a win against the Pirates, who have lost five of six games, likely involves diligently defending the 3-point arc. Thompson said Seton Hall, the second best 3-point shooting team in the conference, typically spreads the court with deep range shooters surrounding imposing 6-foot-9, 290-pounder Eugene Teague. Junior swingman Fuquan Edwin leads Seton Hall with 17.1 points.

"Some people are really good shooters with their toes right on the line. These guys are two, three, four steps off the line," Thompson said of Seton Hall's perimeter options.

The self-assured Starks seemingly always has a spring in his step, a needed trait for any team, especially one that started Big East play with two defeats followed by the loss of academically ineligible starting forward Greg Whittington.

"He's confident and believes in himself - and believes in us, what we're doing and that's crucial," Thompson said.

As for whether or not he indeed carries a heavier work load then his predecessors, Starks said, "I don't want to take anything away from those guys because obviously they showed me the way...I'm going to have to do that for the next guy that comes through."