Syracuse Basketball: 4-star J.J. Starling cites few big reasons for decision

In reading numerous interviews given by 2022 four-star combo guard J.J. Starling after making his college decision known, I get the sense that Syracuse basketball coaches did everything they could to win this recruiting battle.

The 6-foot-4 Starling, a consensus top-40 prospect in his class, picked fellow Atlantic Coast Conference squad Notre Dame over four other finalists, which were the Orange, Duke, Northwestern and Stanford.

The ‘Cuse had courted Starling, a Central New York native, for more than two years, but in the end, the Fighting Irish prevailed. In my opinion, it wasn’t that the Orange didn’t do enough to land Starling.

Rather, Notre Dame was simply able to separate itself from the other contenders, and it appears that Starling had a comfort level with the Fighting Irish that would have been hard to pass up.

Syracuse basketball, unfortunately, missed out on 4-star J.J. Starling.

One thing that I’ll say right here is my frustration with some of my fellow ‘Cuse hoops fanatics. After Starling announced, a sizable amount of Orange fans expressed their disappointment but wished Starling well, which is terrific.

However, another portion of Syracuse basketball fans totally trashed Starling’s decision, saying it was a bad choice and that, in essence, Notre Dame is an awful college basketball team.

What nonsense. First of all, while the Fighting Irish struggled a season ago, Mike Brey is a fabulous head coach, and he guided Notre Dame to consecutive Elite Eight appearances in 2015 and 2016. Plus, the Fighting Irish should be much improved in the 2021-22 campaign.

As we noted in several columns over the past couple of months, Orange coaches were in regular communication with Starling. However, Starling said in an interview with scouting service Pro Insight that Notre Dame’s coaching staff separated itself from the other finalists.

Starling said, “they reminded me of some of the coaching staffs that I had played for previously. Coach Brey really reminded me of Coach (Jim) Hart (of City Rocks) and Coach Pat (Holmes of La Lumiere) in terms of how he carries himself on the court and how he addresses players. That’s the thing that stood out because I think it’s going to let me feel most comfortable there.”

Starling is a senior at the La Lumiere School in La Porte, Ind., and he competes on the grassroots basketball circuit with the Albany City Rocks, which is one of the premier AAU teams nationwide.

When asked by Pro Insight what he was looking for in his future collegiate destination, Starling added, “I was looking for the best fit for me. I took into account the players that I would be playing with, the coaches I would be playing under…but, ultimately, it was about making sure the situation was best for me. I would say those were the biggest things.”

I’m happy for Starling, who is a talented player and a bright young man, even though as a Syracuse University alum, I’m bummed that he won’t don an Orange uniform in the future.