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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

Starks surging with newfound confidence at point guard

Freshmen+Guard%26%23160%3BTJ+Starks%26%23160%3Bdribbles+past+the+defense+to+score.
Photo by Photo by: Kevin Chou

Freshmen Guard TJ Starks dribbles past the defense to score.

Freshman guard T.J. Starks has seen his game surge in Texas A&M’s past two games after taking over as the Aggies starting point guard, having scored in double-figures in both contests.
He recorded a season-high 16 points in A&M’s much needed 80-66 win over Arkansas on Tuesday, going 4-of-5 from three.
“The way he played with the confidence he’s been playing with has been a big plus for us,” A&M head coach Billy Kennedy said before Friday’s practice.
But while Starks has made a positive statement in the past week, he had made the wrong impression on his coaches just a month ago.
Starks played a mere four minutes in A&M’s 83-66 home loss to Florida on Jan. 2. Kennedy said he did not see the court more due to attitude and character issues.
This proved to be a tough wake up call for Starks, who said he turned towards faith during his trial and added that he received consistent assurance from his parents that he was not the only freshman dealing with the growing pains of becoming a college athlete.
Coming from Lancaster, just south of Dallas, Starks said that he had not had the kind of treatment he was receiving from the A&M coaches.
“Where I come from, we don’t really have tough love like that,” Starks said. “Having coaches always on me, it was like, ‘Dang, why’s he staying nagging at me?’ But I had to get used to it, I had to realize that I’m a grown man and that I’m in college now so I have to take care of my responsibilities.
“After every time they get onto me about something, they pull me to the side and say, ‘I only do this because I care about you,’” Starks said. “That’s why I always respect the coaches and that’s why I believe in them because I know they have my best interest in their heart.”
A change in mentality also changed Starks game. He turned a corner in A&M’s win over Missouri on Jan. 20, proving to be a spark after scoring 11 points off the bench in 24 minutes.
“I just took control,” Starks said of his performance against the Tigers. “I played with pace, played my part, and just ran the offense. I feel like that was my breakout game.”
Still, Starks has sought improvement, particularly with his passing after taking over the starting point guard role while senior Duane Wilson continues to play limited minutes due to a lingering knee injury.
In the past three games, Starks has led the team in turnovers with 11 total giveaways. He settled in during the second half against Arkansas, recording four assists to just one turnover. Starks said he has turned to freshman J.J. Caldwell, a natural point guard, on how to become a better ball-handler.
“I watch J.J. Caldwell in practice every day,” Starks said. “His passing ability is awesome, so I just took a little bit from him and applied it to practice and the game and it’s turned out pretty well.”
Starks teammates have also taken notice of his quick maturity on and off the court while adapting to a new role.
“He has taken the point guard role and has been working with Coach Kennedy on patience with the offense and how you can’t just attack on the first side,” junior forward D.J. Hogg said after Tuesday’s win over Arkansas. “He has been waiting for his shots to come and with the way he has playing, his minutes will keep going up. He has realized that and is taking the leadership and maturity in the point guard position.”
Saturday’s matchup against South Carolina will prove to be another pivotal game for A&M, as the Aggies continue to try and climb back up from the bottom of the SEC. With Starks likely to start for the third-straight game, he said he, like A&M, is planning to keep moving forward.
“This ain’t going to stop,” Starks said. “I’m not going backwards.”

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