'Lock-down' defender Starks helps Arizona get early wins
After sitting out a year due to the NCAA transfer rule, Arizona senior forward Tee Tee Starks is ready to join her fellow teammates and make a difference on the court.
Not just join the Wildcats on the court, but help lead the program as an upperclassman.
“I’m so excited,” Starks said. “Sitting out is not fun, but you learn a lot, and I’m just glad that transfer year is over and I am able to play with my teammates and have some fun this year.”
Starks, a Brooklyn Park, Minn. native, played her first two years at Iowa State before coming to Arizona.
While on the Cyclones’ roster, she was sidelined her freshman year due a lower body injury but bounced back in her sophomore season to average 18.6 minutes a game. Her eventual path to Arizona started way back during her high school days.
“When I got my initial release, I had already known Adia [Barnes] through previous recruiting when I was coming out of high school …we also have Minnesota connects through Kelly Finley, and that’s how we got into contact again and I came on a visit, and I enjoyed myself, so now I’m here,” Starks said.
Starks is no stranger to a championship mentality, as she won three state championships while on her high school team at Hopkins High School in Minnesota.
But before she was winning state championships and a member of a NCAA division one program, she was involved in an entirely different sport.
“At first I wanted to be a cheerleader, and I figured out quick that cheerleading wasn’t for me … The day I picked up a basketball I fell in love,” Starks said.
Starks’ love for basketball runs in the family, with her mom being a basketball coach since before Starks was born.
It was only a matter of time before basketball came into her life.
“I was always around the gym, and once I actually started taking it serious and working on my craft, you know, I figured out that this is something that I love to do and this is something that I want to do for a long time,” Starks said.
Now as a senior, Starks has a solid two years to leave her mark on the Wildcat roster. Starks shines on the defensive end of the ball for Arizona, and that’s something she is looking to focus her leadership role on this year.
“I take pride in my defense, and that’s another thing that we’re focusing on this year as a team, is to take pride in our defense as a team. So, I think I’ll be able to definitely help on that aspect,” Starks said.
Starks’ defensive play speaks for itself, but head coach Adia Barnes commented on it during basketball media day. Barnes also talked about how important it is to have transfer players on the court this year.
“Tee Tee’s our best defender. She can really lock people down,” Barnes said.
Starks addressed the family atmosphere that Barnes creates. The feeling of Arizona being her home away from home was a key factor in her decision to attend Arizona.
“I think having great equipment and facilities, I think that’s a great part of being who you are and being a great program. Adia is always working towards making our locker room look great, making it feel like home,” Starks said.
More than anything, Starks expressed her excitement to be on the court and join her team.
“I’m excited for the year as a whole. There are some great people on our team. We have some good talent … We’ve grown closer over this year, so I’m just excited to be on the floor with all of them,” Starks said.
The ‘Cats kicked off the 2018-19 season with a 71-46 victory over Idaho State University on Nov. 9. Since then, they are 3-1 on the season, including solid showing at the Bank of Hawaii Classic scoring a combined total of 176 points over two games.
Even though Starks comes off the bench for the Wildcats, she’s made an impact on the floor and helped the Wildcats gain some crucial early victories.
Starks contributed a season-high nine points in the win over Portland Nov. 18.
Starks and the ‘Cats now look to continue their hot streak during the rest of the non-conference schedule and into Pac-12 play, hoping their early season success is an indictor of progress for women’s basketball.
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