Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Colby Has STARR power with multi-faceted guard

Colby Community College's Brian Starr took the hard route to success.

Nothing has ever been gift-wrapped or handed to the well-built, deft-passing point guard. 

The quarterback and very much the pioneer of a souped-up offense, Starr's game evolved without a four or five-star recruit rating, without the fame and fanfare, without constant headlines, and without a highly-competitive city-to-city AAU schedule.

Starr did not have the same exposure as other multi-tooled point guards of his fabric, rarely playing before jam-packed crowds. Had Starr's game blossomed smack in the middle of a hoops hotbed such as New York, D.C., Baltimore, Chicago, L.A., or Indiana, his path would have been entirely different.

 He didn't have a wealthy street agent or AAU team owner/power broker promoting his game or carting him around for campus visits. 

Starr didn't have a high-profile personal trainer running him through arduous workouts and advocating for him through social media.

What he did have, however, was endless film on Allen Iverson and Chris Paul and a thirst for point guard knowledge.

 Analyzing, dissecting, and ultimately emulating Iverson's crafty handle and manipulative one-on-one moves, Starr took meticulous mental notes. 

Observing Paul's basketball IQ and know-how and natural ability for finding kick out shooters and bigs, the 19-year-old Starr developed a purity of vision.

 Iona, New Mexico, Drake, Mercer, Northern Colorado, and a variety of mid-major programs have expressed interest in the 6-foot-3 playmaker, the no.2 ranked point guard in Missouri as a senior at Fort Osage.

"He sees the plays before they happen, he's got a unique ability to understand the play before it unfolds," said Colby assistant Kevin Jolley.

"Brian has grown as a point guard. Knowing where guys are and knowing where guys are scoring the ball has helped. So, putting them in a good position helps his game grow. Being able to get into the lane and finish with contact helps. It's hard for a guard to guard him."

That much was evident during Starr's performance in a dizzying 85-81 loss to Coffeyville. The game's intriguing subplot was Starr v.s. Coffeyville's Darrion Strong, an Oklahoma commit.

The game lived up to its heavy billing and hype. Starr scored 37 points, doled out seven assists, and ripped seven boards in 30 minutes.  Starr shot 11-for-20 from the floor, solidifying his status as one of the nation's top unsigned JUCO guards. Strong scored 29 points, including 13-for-15 from the free throw line.

Starr's numbers have increased from his freshman year, with his assists shooting up from 5.1 per game to 8.9 (fourth in the country). He's averaging 14.9 points, taking scoring responsibilities into his own hands with 24-point performances against Northwest Kansas Tech and Butler.

 In Starr, head coach Rusty Grafel found a low-maintenance and unassuming kid who always plays as if he's got something to prove and some doubter to hush up. It is rare you see a kid of Starr's game and convincing numbers go overlooked.

In a way, however, flying under the radar has worked in Starr's favor. The lack of hype, high expectations, and headlines has ramped up his already insatiable desire for competition. Being unsung and underrated keeps him motivated, hell-bent on exploding into the spotlight with a mammoth-slaying performance.

"Every time he steps on the floor, he wants to prove himself and make his teammates better," Jolley said.

 He also wants to prove Kansas City area basketball is no laughing matter.

 "Kansas City is kind of a basketball town, but I still feel as if basketball in Kansas City is underrated," Starr explained.

"A lot of the ball players from back home were overlooked. So, we always play as if we have something to prove. That's how I got the chip on my shoulder. That's why I play with my emotions a lot. I use that as motivation. That's how a lot of guys are back home. A lot of us are just hungry to prove ourselves."

 Due to his surges to the rim, strong finishes through traffic, and creative playmaking in the open floor and run-and-gun situations, Iona seems like a logical destination for Starr.

Given the Gaels fast-paced, lungs burning running game, Starr could potentially engineer the offense.

 Jolley knows a thing or two about unheralded guards making a big splash at a smaller school. During Jolley's time as a bullish 6-foot-4 forward at  Quinnipiac he played alongside a 5-foot-10 sniper in Rob Monroe.

Monroe, who knew Jolley from D.C.'s basketball landscape and elped sell him on the program, emerged into one of the nation's top scoring leaders and a top-5 leader in assist-to-turnover ratio in 2004-05.

Coaching both young men was then-assistant Jared Grasso, now Iona's associate head coach and a strong local recruiting presence.

Since recently becoming NCAA eligible, more and more schools have chimed in and inquired about Starr.

The true draw of Starr, at the next level, is his knack for wearing multiple jerseys and assimilating to different roles. A Big East-bodied guard known for rugged wall-to-wall defense, the Trojans need its seasoned sophomore to relish the jack of all trades role.

“One of the biggest challenges for me is being ready for everything night in and night out,” Starr said.

“In (the Jayahawk Conference), you know it’s always going to be a good game, you know eavh game could go down to the wire. I don’t really play for stats. Some nights my team need me to score more, some nights my team may need me to focus more on rebounding or play tight defense or just find guys and get them open. I just always have to be ready to play hard no matter what’s asked of me.”

Starr’s confidence and accountability has become contagious for Colby.

Jolley sees Starr’s desire to prove himself at all times and his competitive nature sets him apart from other guards as of his caliber.

“He plays with a chip on his shoulder for sure,” said Jolley. “I believe he’s one of the best (JUCO) point guards in the country.”