- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Markel Starks’ summer was stuffed with responsibility last year. More playing time awaited the Georgetown guard, and a team trip to China loomed.

Starks is now a far more known commodity. He started for more than three months last season and is one of only two Hoyas with more than eight career starts. He’s Georgetown’s second-leading returning scorer.

And despite it all, this offseason is perhaps more crammed than the last.

“I knew I was going to be in a much bigger role than in my freshman year,” Starks said last week. “But I think probably this summer in comparison to last summer, I’m not going to say more focused, but I’m more dedicated.”

While it’s easy to pinpoint just what the Hoyas (24-9 last season) will be without when November arrives, Starks offers assurance on what Georgetown will have entering the season.

Smooth, do-everything sophomore forward Otto Porter is back. Lanky sophomore wing Greg Whittington is improved. Junior forward Nate Lubick again will provide rugged play.

Then there’s Starks, who played in all but two games and averaged 7.1 points as the Hoyas advanced to the NCAA tournament round of 32.

Even then, veterans Jason Clark and Henry Sims provided a safety net of sorts. Clark was the Hoyas’ top scorer. The offense often ran through Sims in the post. Starks’ responsibilities in both areas are likely to grow.

“I watched a lot of tape,” Starks said. “I’ve had to study myself. I’ve had to study other guys. I’ve had to study our players. I’ve had to study our team. In the midst of it, I’ve tried to figure out where guys like to have the ball, where guys feel comfortable in scoring positions.”

That is not to say Starks ignored his shooting and ball-handling over the summer. Those were priorities as well. But a year in which the attention was far more magnified than his debut season effectively provided Starks a mental checklist for how to better handle things.

Perhaps the most notable element of Starks’ was his removal from the starting lineup in late February. Starks missed a rout of Villanova, then came off the bench the final six games after Porter entered the lineup.

It was, then and now, a non-issue to Starks. Success was what mattered, and Porter’s presence helped the Hoyas. In handling it maturely, the energetic Starks might have won some credibility with the nucleus of a roster that figures to remain together over the next two years.

“Just him going through that, it kind of let him know, ‘Hey, what else can I do to help us win?’” Porter said. “I think that now that he’s been through it, he can move on and keep doing what he’s doing.”

At this point, that means helping Georgetown push past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament since 2007.

It nearly happened last year, when the Hoyas missed two potentially game-tying shots in the final 15 seconds of a 66-63 setback to N.C. State.

“Ever since that loss, we’re already thinking about what we can do to not have this result again,” Porter said. “I think it went through everybody’s mind that’s coming back that we were so close. We can already feel it.”

There were two overly simplistic prisms to view the defeat through. It was Georgetown’s fifth straight NCAA ouster against a double-digit seed.

It also capped a year the Hoyas vastly outpaced preseason prognostications.

Neither is entirely fair, though the recent tournament history remains in place. With no seniors, Georgetown could find itself unheralded again this fall despite an intriguing roster.

Starks, busy as usual and more prepared than ever, is ready for more responsibility and dedicated to ensuring the Hoyas make the most of the season to come.

“Expectations for our team were so low and because we surpassed everybody’s expectations, they were like, ‘Oh, you guys had a great year,’” Starks said. “In our minds, yeah, we had a pretty good year. But we were so much better. We still had some more left in the tank. … We’re hungry. I can honestly speak for the team when I say we’re hungry, and we’re ready to get back out there.”

• Patrick Stevens can be reached at pstevens@washingtontimes.com.

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