The NCAA on Tuesday announced that it was denying Illinois’ request for Ahmad Starks to play immediately. We asked beat writer Marcus Jackson what that means for the Illini this season:
With the NCAA’s decision to deny a hardship waiver for the Oregon State transfer, it’s made what was already expected to be a challenging season for John Groce’s squad even more challenging.
The 5-foot-9 Starks would have added much-needed depth in the backcourt that took a serious hit with the graduation of Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson. Starks is a proven play-making guard at the collegiate level after three years as a starter for the Beavers, and he would have taken some pressure off junior Tracy Abrams.
Starks can shoot it from long range, can set guys up and get to the basket off ball screens. He thrived in that style of offense at Chicago’s Whitney Young and had been dominating the late-summer workouts and early in the fall.
More now will be expected from freshmen Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate than would have with Starks in the rotation. And with only 11 players eligible to play this season, sophomore walk-on Mike LaTulip might see some action.