Markel Starks bounced in the sun-streaked room. Energy follows Georgetown's sophomore point guard, along with his ever-present grin, unfailing politeness and floor-slapping, jaw-flapping enthusiasm on the basketball court.
Honesty comes with the package, too.
Sure, Georgetown, picked to finish in the bottom half of the Big East, is ranked No. 12 in the country heading into Wednesday's showdown at No. 2 Syracuse.
But mistakes haunt Starks. He beats himself up over them.
Before the season, Starks labeled himself a question mark, as he assumed the starting point guard's responsibilities after a freshman season of reserve duty. Twenty-two games and one unexpected start later, Starks embraces the uncertainty.
"I'm still a question mark," Starks said, then switched to the voice of an analyst. "This kid fouls too much. He's not on the floor. He's still on the bench. We know he can shoot a little bit, but we don't know what else he can do. That's it right there."
Take Georgetown's past four games. Starks didn't reach 20 minutes in three of them, beset by four fouls against Rutgers and Pittsburgh. Three more fouls came in Saturday's win over South Florida.
Those are the sort of plays that stick in his mind. Like the Pittsburgh game, when Starks picked up two quick fouls, including a charge on an ill-advised drive to the hoop, in the first 3 minutes, 33 seconds. He spent the rest of the half on the bench.
The extended break didn't prevent Starks from pounding the hardwood and bellowing encouragement as he crouched in front of the bench like a coach hyped up on energy drinks.
Starks has committed three or more fouls in nine games this season. He has as many fouls as assists and steals combined. Those aren't numbers you want from your starting point guard.
"The only way I can control what I do is by controlling my fouls," said Starks, whose 44 fouls rank fourth on the team. "I want to go out there. I want to win. I want to compete."
Teammates don't quite know what to make of Stark's earnest talk of a question mark. After all, he's started 21 games (he sat out against DePaul because of a stomach illness), sank 41.2 percent of his 3-pointers and dropped 20 points in the December upset of then-No. 4 Louisville.
And Starks' energy is infectious, like the jolt he brought the team during breakfast before the unusual 11 a.m. start against South Florida. Never mind the early hour; that was typical.
A question mark?
"I don't think so," senior Jason Clark said. "Markel has shown he can score the ball, pass the ball, he can defend the other team's best player. Once he does all that on a consistent basis ... maybe that's where he thinks he's a question mark."
Added freshman Otto Porter: "Every day he's getting better. He's one of those players that always learns and always plays hard."
If Starks cuts down the fouls, particularly the head-scratching, momentum-sapping ones that earn him a seat on the bench, the question mark lurking in his mind will disappear.
And sprawled on a chair in the sun-streaked room, Starks imagined what the question mark's evaporation could sound like at season's end.
"We know who this Starks kid is," he said.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.