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Ahmad Starks Transferring

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Ahmad Starks, Oregon St.'s career leader in made 3 pointers, is transferring.
Ahmad Starks, Oregon St.'s career leader in made 3 pointers, is transferring.
(Photo by Andy Wooldridge)

Oregon St. guard Ahmad Starks has decided to transfer prior to his senior season. His reasons for doing so are a combination of a desire to be closer to family in Chicago, specifically his grandmother, who is experiencing declining health, and some dissatisfaction with his role going forward in the Beavers' scheme of things, basketball wise.

"It's more about being closer to home and my grandmother," Starks has said. "She is like 90 years old, and suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's. She practically raised me, so that's what it's about."

Starks made the decision after going home for a visit over spring break.

"She has gotten progressive worse over the past few months," Starks said of Mazola Robinson. "She could barely remember who I was when I saw her over spring break. That hurts, and I don't know how much longer she's going to be here."

Starks is considering Illinois and Bradley as potential transfer destinations, and given the condition of his grandmother, the NCAA could grant a hardship waiver that would allow him to play without sitting out for a season, as would normally be required for a non-graduated player. Oregon St. head coach Craig Robinson will certainly not stand in the way of Starks' release.

What it means for the upcoming Oregon St. season is somewhat more murky, given how this past season ended.

Starks, who has made 73 career starts for the Beavers, is the program's all-time leader in made 3 point shots, with 185. With a month left in the season, it appeared that Starks would join Roberto Nelson, Devon Collier, and Joe Burton as 1,000 point scorers, making the 2012-13 Oregon St. squad the first in school history that had 4 1,000 point scorers on the team at the same time.

It never happened.

As Oregon St. fans recollect, Starks slumped down the stretch, averaging only 4.9 points per game on 27% shooting the last 8 games of the season. And as his point production nose-dived, eventually too did his minutes.

Starks' size, which is generously listed as 5'9", put him at a disadvantage any time he left the perimeter offensively, and was always a challenge defensively. Bigger guards that were a mismatch for Starks had something to do with Oregon St. finishing last in the Pac-10/12 in shooting percentage defense in 2 of Starks' 3 years.

Challe Barton was thrust into the starting lineup, and now seems the obvious heir-apparent to the point guard position. More minutes are sure to ensue for Victor Robbins, who at 6'6" literally towers over Starks.

C. Robinson also started increasing his use of 6'5" Langston Morris-Walker as the season wore on, looking for an effective compliment for shooting guard Roberto Nelson.

None of the 3 lit things up, and Oregon St., losing time and again by narrow margins, could have notched enough wins to be a post season team with only a handful more baskets. So the competition is bound to be wide open for both the starting spot as well as minutes off the bench, come fall time.

The loss of experience could be a challenge for a Beaver team that was anticipating the return of everyone except Burton, including a healthy again Angus Brandt. Starks also was third on the team in assists, an increasingly important area with the departure of Burton, who was an assist machine.

Without complimentary scoring for Nelson and Burton's passing, opponents can be expected to pack the paint and also double team Nelson at the same time.

But it will mean a taller, longer team than whenever Starks would have been in the game. And the question facing C. Robinson of how to use Starks should he struggle offensively becomes moot.

At the very least, those entirely too early preseason games against "Who are these guys?" opponents just got a lot more interesting, to see how the overhauled lineup and rotation works out.

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com