Ahmad Starks heads to Illini
Oregon State junior point guard Ahmad Starks said Tuesday he will transfer to Illinois.
Starks, a 5-foot-9, 165-pound guard, decided to leave Oregon State to be closer to his ailing grandmother in Chicago. He will seek a family hardship waiver from the NCAA and could be eligible next season. He also considered transferring to Bradley.
Starks, who attended Whitney Young High School in Chicago, started 73 games in three seasons at Oregon State. He averaged 10.4 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.0 steal as a junior. He is Oregon State's career leader in 3-pointers made and shot 64-of-162 from 3-point range last season.
"It's the state school," Starks said of Illinois. "It's always been big for me. I always liked watching it growing up, watching Dee Brown and those guys. I took a visit when Bruce Weber was the coach. I liked the situation there, and it didn't work out. Being close to home, the alumni situation, all of it is huge. They have a great fan base.
"I'm like a lot of players that plan to be a professional basketball player of some sort when I'm done with college. It's definitely a good opportunity to play for a team that I can help out and be close to my grandmother. My parents can hopefully bring her down often, every home game and much as possible. It's a great opportunity to play for coach [John] Groce and his staff and the players there."
Starks and his family also had a previous relationship with Illinois assistant coach Paris Parham, who had recruited Starks while an assistant at Illinois State.
Starks could be a major contributor in the Illini's backcourt next season if eligible. Illinois returns point guard Tracy Abrams, who started 32 games as a sophomore last season. Incoming freshman Jaylon Tate will be the only other point guard on the roster.
Starks said Illinois' coaches sold him on their fast-paced style and playing beside Abrams and shooting guard Joseph Bertand in a three-guard offense.
"Obviously, Tracy and I would play a lot together," Starks said. "That situation could be worked out great. Tracy can play both positions, and I can play both a little bit. I'm more of a point guard. We can both shoot the ball. We can definitely play off each other. They like to play faster, and they thought they could be even faster with me. Bertrand, I imagine, would be that third guy, and he can play fast. It'll help in all facets."
Starks is the fourth transfer Illinois has received since the end of the season. Illinois State junior forward Jon Ekey, Seton Hall sophomore guard Aaron Cosby and Western Michigan freshman forward Darius Paul also recently opted to transfer to Illinois.
Illinois has received six transfers since Groce took over the program prior to last season. Rayvonte Rice (Drake) and Sam McLaurin (Coastal Carolina) joined the team before last season. McLaurin played for Illinois as a senior this past season, and Rice will be eligible next season after sitting out the 2012-2013 season.
The Illini's 2013 recruiting class, ranked No. 15 by ESPN, also includes five high school seniors -- shooting guard Kendrick Nunn, small forward Malcolm Hill, power forward Austin Colbert, center Maverick Morgan and Tate.