Markel Starks is the kind of raconteur capable of holding court on just about any subject, delivering such loquacious answers to even the simplest of questions that his reputation as a wordsmith has drawn knowing looks from the Georgetown coaching staff.
But so far, talk has been the hallmark of the junior guard’s spotty college career. The Hoyas need Starks — brilliant at times, maddening at others — to raise the volume of his on-court game to help run Georgetown’s complex offense and mentor a callow roster.
Starks‘ veteran status will be front and center Wednesday as the Hoyas take on Liberty at Verizon Center in a regional round game of the Legends Classic. Sophomore standout Otto Porter may miss the contest after suffering a head injury in the season opener against Duquesne.
“Going from a young guy to an old guy in a year plays a huge factor,” Starks said. “It forces you to grow up, but you also have to reflect on your experiences in that short period of time to figure out what has gotten you through those tough times. The spotlight — it is what it is, and it is what you make of it.
“If you flourish, people will love you. If you don’t, then you’re going to be sitting here. I’m glad that I put in the work I did this summer. I’m glad to finally show and prove.”
“He’s still growing up,” Thompson said. “We want immediate gratification, and we don’t understand or accept, ‘OK, this kid is a freshman, then sophomore year he’s going to be a little different, junior year a little different and senior year is tremendously different than his freshman year.’ I think Markel is going through the natural maturation and growth process. In this day and age, we’re looking for the finished piece too early.”
Last year, the 6-foot-2 Starks started 25 games, averaging 7.1 points and 1.6 assists. He also only averaged 24.4 minutes, often finding himself on the bench for long stretches of games because of foul troubles and overly aggressive play.
“I was mostly just excited last year,” Starks said. “I had a lot of stupid fouls. I knew I was committing stupid fouls, but I was anxious. Moving forward, there’s no more anxiousness — you’re a vet out there. It’s time to step up.”
“We’re not going to try and harness him,” Thompson said. “That’s his strength. His passion, his enthusiasm is infectious. I don’t think harnessing his passion has to be synonymous with getting more consistent play.”
In the opener, Starks tallied nine points in 32 minutes and was involved in several critical plays, draining a 3-pointer to give the Hoyas an 11-point lead with six minutes to play and then teaming with fellow junior Nate Lubick on a perfectly executed back-cut play to help Georgetown hang on against Duquesne.
Starks is hoping that through hard work, the chatter around his play and the Hoyas will grow louder throughout the conference and nation.
“It’s going to be a good year, hopefully exciting. We’re young,” he said. “We’re going to take some lumps, but hopefully we can pull it together. We know what we’re capable of. I think a lot of your questions [about me] will be answered this year.”