Starks Growing as a Leader

With only one season to play at Illinois, Ahmad Starks is growing in his role as a vocal leader.

CHAMPAIGN — Ahmad Starks was pressed into a leadership role this week during the Navy Seals training exercises the Illinois basketball team went through.

It wasn't easy for the senior point guard at first, but by the end of the week Starks found his voice.

"We had a little incident earlier in the week where I wasn't the best leader, so the rest of the week was big on me," Starks said. "I was in leadership roles the rest of week, being vocal and my team won most of the drills. I definitely feel like I improved."

This summer is key for the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Chicago guard. After sitting out last season due to transfer rules, Starks has one season to make his mark in an Illini uniform.

"It was pretty tough, just watching the games every day, every night," Starks said of last season. "I would say it's not as tough as I thought it was going to be. I had Aaron Cosby and Darius Paul with me, so I kind of worked it out and talked with them. I was able to work with them, so I wasn't alone like Ray (Rice) was during his year. It's pretty tough not playing, but me and Aaron are pretty anxious to get on the floor."

The team has been on campus and working out the past two weeks. There's a balance between individual training and team workouts, something Starks says is going well thus far.

"We've been great. Everybody has been competing," Starks said. "That's what you want, you want competition, you want to learn the sacrifice, the teamwork. Individual workouts it's been hard work and then our team workouts going at it and learning the system."

And as for stepping into that leadership role, Starks is making progress. Former Navy SEAL turned instructor John McGuire encouraged Tracy Abrams to be more vocal last summer. It was Starks turn this June. Coach John Groce saw a different player in Starks at the conclusion of the training.

"I thought Starks, obviously having sat a year and not playing, playing that point guard position, that's like the quarterback position in football," Groce said. "That guy's got to be able to lead and communicate… I thought Ahmad got better a lot over the last four days, was much more vocal, was much more confident and I think that bodes well for our team also."

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