After Fort Osage High School graduate Brian Starr finished his senior season for the Towson University basketball team, he still wanted to continue his career in the sport.
Starr finished with 8.2 points, on 40 percent shooting, 1.1 steals, 2.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game during his senior campaign at the Division I school in Maryland. He said he believed he didn’t accomplish what he wanted to at Towson.
“After I didn’t have the success I anticipated myself having at Towson University, my head coach at Towson offered me positions with agencies and different teams,” Starr said. “Because I didn’t think my coach valued the skills I brought to the table, I took my own route.”
That’s when Starr decided to move to Belarus in Europe to join a basketball team overseas named Borisfen of the Belarusian Basketball Federation.
He helped his team find success as it won the league regular season title and finished second in the Vysshaya Liga playoffs, losing to Tsmoki-Minsk BC in the championship game. Not only did Starr find team success, but his individual play shined. On May 18, he was named the 2018-19 BBF Most Valuable Player. He was also the Defensive MVP of the BBF and the Vysshaya Liga playoffs.
“This was really just to figure out what I wanted to do with my future in basketball,” Starr said. “I hadn’t worked out for a little while when I got over there. I was a little rusty. I used my intangibles to get me over the hump.
“I got better and better as the season went on. I still kept the intensity as far as playing hard on defense. We went on a 14-game winning streak and it was the first time in this team’s history that it won the league.”
His journey to Eastern Europe started when he went to basketball camps around the U.S., showcasing his skills. His first camp was in Philadelphia, and after a few months went by, Starr then got a call from his agent, saying that Borisfen was interested in signing him.
Starr played the longest basketball season of his career in Belarus, as his team started in October and ended its season in May. It took him a few games to knock off the rust, but once he did, he put together an excellent season. He averaged 19.5 points, 4 assists and 3.4 steals per game.
“The competition was not better than what I played against at Towson,” Starr said. “But the season is so long, and you play each team so many times. When you play a team four to five times, it gets harder and harder to score.”
While scoring for Starr was tough at times, getting used to the culture in Belarus was even tougher. The country borders Russia, so the primary languages are Russian and Belarusian.
He couldn’t read the labels of goods he bought at the grocery store. He also wasn’t able to drive due to the laws being different there. He had to get used to using public transportation. Even communicating with his teammates was a struggle.
“Everything was hard at first,” Starr said. “I had to do some adjusting. I learned a few words (in Russian). I still had a hard time pronouncing the words.”
However, the trek was still worth it to Starr as he improved his basketball skills.
“I am a lot more explosive, and I’ve gotten more decisive with my shot selection,” Starr said. “I also learned how to move better without the ball.
I was shooting more for defensive accolades because I feel like my defense gets overlooked sometimes. My skill set wasn’t polished when I went over there, but it’s gotten better.”
Now that the season is over, Starr is weighing his options for the future of his basketball career. He is considering staying with Borisfen since it’s moving to the more competitive EuroCup league next season. He’s also considering playing for a team in Germany if he decides to stay overseas.
He’s also considering coming back to the U.S. to play in the Drew League, a summer basketball league based in Los Angeles that NBA players and prospects have played in, including LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.
Starr’s goal for the near future is to get on with a G-League team (the developmental league for the NBA).
“I’ll have an answer for that later this month,” Starr said of where he will be playing next. “Right now, I am looking to hear from my agent. He’s trying to get me into that (Drew League). I was advised to play at least two seasons overseas, especially since I didn’t play in the most competitive in the league. I was advised to play one more year in the EuroCup.”