Former Fort Osage boys basketball guard Brian Starr found himself in a similar situation this year.
It turned out to be the same one he found himself in when he entered his first year at Colby (Kansas) Community College.
He started out as the backup point guard for Colby before earning his spot into the starting rotation his freshman year. It was assistant coach Kevin Jolley who suggested that Starr should get his first start. It was the team’s first game in the conference and Starr responded with a 19-point, 12-assist performance.
”I wasn't playing particularly well my freshman year," Starr said of his first year at Colby. "I was backing up one of the guards on our team. The assistant coach, Kevin Jolley, told the head coach that I needed to be in the starting lineup because I had better tempo and played better with the team than the point guard we had starting.
“So one game coach put me in the starting lineup and the assistant coach walked up to me before the game, right before we were warming up. He walks up to me and goes, 'Hey man. Don't make me look like a jackass. Go out there and do your thing.' That was our very first game in conference."
Fast forward two years later, the 6-foot-3 guard had to earn his stripes again when he transferred to NCAA Division I Towson University in Maryland. He wasn’t happy his situation with the team at first but eventually worked his way into the starting lineup. He is now one of the core pieces for the Tigers.
“I had to let my game do the talking,” Starr said.
That’s exactly what happened.
Starr, who averaged 14.3 points, 7.1 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game during his sophomore year with Colby, started out on the bench once again with Towson. The team began 7-5 but went 13-8 with him in the starting lineup.
His first start was against Iona and he got to play in front of his mother, who traveled to Las Vegas to watch him play in the South Point Holiday Hoops Classic Tournament. He didn’t disappoint in his starting debut as he shot 5 of 10 from the field, scored 14 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out three assists. It was at that point that Starr felt like he proved himself.
He started the rest of the season.
“I think it was a trust thing,” Starr said of his journey to becoming a starter. “I had to earn the coach’s trust. Early in the season, I was kind of new with me being a JUCO transfer. I don’t think I wasn’t ready to start before.
“The Iona game was a memorable one for me. I was able to put on a good showing for my mom. And Iona was a team that wanted to recruit me. It was a combination of factors that made that game unique for me.”
It was a journey for Starr to get to this point. He didn’t receive any offers from Division I schools out of high school. That’s why he went the junior college route to prove himself. After a pair of standout seasons with Colby, he received around 10 offers from several mid-majors, including Iona, New Mexico, Drake, Sam Houston State and East Tennessee State.
However, it was Towson that stood out to him as the right choice.
“They were in a really good conference. The CAA (Colonial Athletic Association) is a respected conference,” Starr said. “And my head coach here (Pat Skerry) is known for getting 20-plus wins every season. They are competitive in a really good league. Their point guard had just randomly transferred right after my sophomore season, so I thought this was my place.”
Starr has averaged 6 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game for the 20-13 Tigers, who fell Sunday 67-55 to the College of Charleston in the Colonial semifinals but could still get an NIT or other postseason berth. Those numbers, however, didn’t live up to Starr’s standards.
Starr said it was difficult to adjust to Towson’s style of play. The Tigers played at a slow and methodical pace, depending on their half-court offense, and mostly count on their post players to do the majority of the scoring. With Colby, Starr was used to more off a fast-paced, run-and-gun style of offense.
“I don’t think I did what I needed to do,” he said. “I didn’t meet my expectations at all. However, I was able to show flashes of what I was able to do.”
But his game has improved since making the jump to the Division I level. Starr said that he’s been getting better at having more poise and patience on the offensive end, and his knowledge of the game has increased.
Because of that, Starr could see his role increase even more his senior year. He believes that Skerry is going to recruit players for a more up-tempo, fast-paced offense that Starr is used to, which he said should help improve his numbers.
“When we pushed the pace at Colby, I was able to control the tempo.” Starr said. “I think our coach is moving in the direction of recruiting guys that we can play faster with. That works in my favor.”
Because of that, Starr has much higher expectations for the 2017-18 season.
“I would like to average anywhere from 14-17 points,” he said. “I would like to average double-digit assists or anywhere close and I want to be in the conversation for (CAA) Player of the Year. I would also like to win the conference and make the dance (NCAA Tournament). I think we’re more than capable of doing all those things.”