When fans in Murray last saw Janssen Starks, she was hoisting another Region 1 basketball title over her head in the CFSB Center. Now she is ready to begin her Murray State career.
The journey to Murray State for Starks has been an interesting one, as the Racers had not considered offering the Murray High School guard a scholarship the spring of her junior year.
“Coach Cross was honest with me throughout the entire process and it was a huge reason of why I ultimately chose Murray,” Starks said.
The transformation that got the Racers’ attention was the summer before Starks’ breakout senior season.
“I wanted to be the best player in the region and honestly can’t even remember how I got there but I grew tremendously,” Starks said.
In her final season at Murray High, Starks led the Tigers to their third championship in four years and added the ability to score. Starks led the state in 3-pointers made and was third in scoring with 25.2 points per game. While Starks said she is happy to be close to home, she knows there is pressure on her.
“It has its good moments and its bad moments,” Starks said. “Good moments are that you get to be around family and friends, but if you don’t play well, the pressure is on you and being in your hometown and everyone expecting big things.”
Starks comes from a basketball family. Her grandmother, mother and two older sisters played the game. Starks said she wanted to be just like them and play the family game, too.
Starks’ biggest influence in her career has been her oldest sister Ashley who, like Janssen, was a point guard.
“When I was little, I wanted to be just like her and get out there and play with her,” Starks said. “She wasn’t just good on the court but off the court she was a good person and that’s who I want to be like.”
Starks said the transition to collegiate basketball has been exciting and nerve-racking, but things are starting to slow down as the season nears. With the Racers only returning one starter and four players that saw action last season, Head Coach Rob Cross expects opportunities to be plentiful for Starks and other freshmen.
“If we started today she would be in the starting lineup and that says a lot of a freshman, and I think she has a chance to be a very effective player for us,” Cross said.
While Starks was a scorer in her final year of high school, she is primarily known for being a distributor, which is something she is looking forward to getting back to.
“I always like to pass,” Starks said. “I would pass up any shot to get somebody else a shot.”
As Starks prepares for her first college game tonight against Robert Morris-Springfield, there are a few things she is looking forward to.
“Hearing my named called out will be emotional because I ended my high school career here and am starting my college career here, too,” Starks said. “It is definitely exciting and nerves are going to be in me but I am just going to come out and do the best I can and have all my supporters with me.”
She said her first objective is not to score in her first official game.
Said Starks: “I would much rather have my first career assist.”
Story by Tom Via, Staff writer