Syracuse Basketball: CNY native J.J. Starling set to battle hometown team

Syracuse basketball, J.J. Starling (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Syracuse basketball, J.J. Starling (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

Central New York product J.J. Starling is off to a solid start for fellow Atlantic Coast Conference member Notre Dame, and the 6-foot-4 guard will next suit up against his hometown college team, Syracuse basketball.

Following the Fighting Irish’s 70-52 home domination of No. 20 Michigan State on Wednesday evening in the final ACC-Big Ten Challenge, Notre Dame sits at 6-1. The Fighting Irish’s only loss, so far in the 2022-23 term, was to St. Bonaventure by 12 points at home.

In the latest win over the Spartans, Starling played 32 minutes and compiled 14 points, 4 boards, 2 assists, 2 blocks and 1 steal. Through the team’s first seven games in 2022-23, Starling is averaging 33.0 minutes, 13.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.4 turnovers per game, according to ESPN statistics.

He is connecting on 45.7 percent from the field but must improve his shooting from deep and at the free-throw line. Starling is only hitting on 26.9 percent from 3-point land and 58.8 percent from the charity stripe.

Besides the Michigan State game, Starling has put forth multiple other excellent performances thus far in his young Fighting Irish career, including 17 points in a win over Youngstown State. In another earlier contest, Starling was simply fabulous as Notre Dame conquered Bowling Green; in that game, Starling hit on an impressive 10-of-11 from the field and also added six rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Syracuse basketball is squaring off with former recruiting target J.J. Starling.

Fighting Irish head coach Mike Brey, one of my favorite college coaches out there, seems to have another good roster in the 2022-23 season, with national pundits deeming Notre Dame a contender to grab an invite to next spring’s NCAA Tournament.

As usual, Brey’s current line-up shares the ball well and doesn’t commit a lot of turnovers. Additionally, Notre Dame is excellent shooting the ball from the field, from beyond the arc, and at the charity stripe.

For the Fighting Irish to do some damage in the ACC and in post-season play, J.J. Starling will prove a pivotal piece for Notre Dame. And he’ll get his first shot at his hometown college group when the ‘Cuse (3-4) travels to the Fighting Irish this Saturday afternoon.

Starling was a star for Baker High School in Baldwinsville, N.Y., before he transferred to the powerhouse La Lumiere School in La Porte, Ind., for his junior and senior years.

Orange coaches got involved with him early on in his recruiting process, offering a scholarship to Starling in August of 2019. As far as I can tell, the ‘Cuse prioritized Starling in the 2022 cycle for a long period of time.

In fact, he took two official visits to the Hill. He had Syracuse basketball in his top five, along with Notre Dame, Duke, Northwestern and Stanford. Many Orange fans figured that J.J. Starling would choose the ‘Cuse, given his CNY roots.

But Starling, who shined in grassroots basketball for the Albany City Rocks in Nike’s EYBL league, ended up selecting Notre Dame, and that miss by Syracuse basketball coaches was heartbreaking to ‘Cuse fans, myself included.

As a senior at the La Lumiere School, Starling had a terrific season for one of the best high-school squads around the country. For a large chunk of time when I was writing about the Orange’s pursuit of him, Starling was deemed a four-star player by numerous recruiting services.

However, amid a stellar 2021-22 stanza, he soared up the 2022 national ratings. The industry-generated 247Sports Composite, for example, placed J.J. Starling as five stars and No. 21 around the country in the 2022 class.

So for him to take two official visits to the ‘Cuse, have the Orange in his top five, rise to five-star status, and then head to another ACC program – that, my friends, was brutal for Syracuse basketball recruiting enthusiasts.

To me, though, I’ll always admire and respect J.J. Starling. He’s a hard-working, humble and talented young man. It will be interesting to see how he fares versus the ‘Cuse, a group that got destroyed by Illinois earlier this week in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and has lost three in a row.

Now and in the future, I’ll be rooting for J.J. Starling to succeed, although I hope that Syracuse basketball is able to conquer him and the Fighting Irish on the road this coming Saturday.

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