Syracuse Basketball: J.J. Starling playing for hometown team is ‘amazing’

Syracuse basketball, J.J. Starling (Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball, J.J. Starling (Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports) /

For Central New York native J.J. Starling, the opportunity this upcoming season to play for a hometown school, Syracuse basketball, in front of his family and friends “feels amazing,” he recently told Griffin Della Penna of SyracuseOnSI.

The 6-foot-4, 206-pound Starling, who hails from Baldwinsville, N.Y., transferred to the Orange this past off-season after playing for fellow Atlantic Coast Conference member Notre Dame as a freshman during the 2022-23 term.

Even though the Fighting Irish struggled last year, J.J. Starling said that he learned a lot from head coach Mike Brey, who recruited him. Starling called his one campaign at Notre Dame “a great experience,” although when word broke that Brey would step down from the helm of the Fighting Irish after 2022-23 concluded, J.J. Starling decided to enter the NCAA’s transfer portal in the spring.

He didn’t stay in the portal long. The talented sophomore guard, citing his long-time, strong relationship with Syracuse basketball first-year head coach Adrian Autry, quickly committed to the ‘Cuse for the upcoming 2023-24 season, which officially kicks off for the Orange when the team hosts New Hampshire on Monday, Nov. 6.

Syracuse basketball sophomore guard J.J. Starling is excited to be wearing Orange in 2023-24.

Autry, at the squad’s recently held media day, said during his press conference that he’s known Starling since he was around 7 years old. The ‘Cuse head coach noted that Starling and Autry’s son, George Washington freshman guard Trey Autry, grew up together, so to speak.

Both J.J. Starling and Trey Autry, while in separate recruiting cycles, competed on the AAU circuit for the Albany City Rocks in Nike’s EYBL league.

After Starling entered the transfer portal, and Orange coaches were allowed to contact him, Adrian Autry says they reached out. “He knew why I was calling … we got it done pretty easy,” Autry said, calling Starling’s decision to join Syracuse basketball as “kind of like a reunion a little bit.”

In his freshman season for Notre Dame, J.J. Starling averaged 11.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists per encounter, while hitting on 42.1 percent from the field, 29.9 percent from beyond the arc and 63.8 percent from the free-throw line.

He was, in 2022-23, named to the Atlantic Coast Conference’s All-Freshman team, although Starling was a tad inconsistent with his play. He needs to improve his shooting percentages, but in all fairness, as a freshman, he dealt with knee and shoulder injuries.

According to Autry and recent media reports, J.J. Starling is in good health, and I expect him to be in the Orange’s starting rotation when the 2023-24 stanza gets underway.

National pundits have deemed Starling as one of the top transfers around the country and in the ACC. He’s also receiving some 2024 NBA Draft buzz, but next summer’s draft is a long way from now.

While J.J. Starling took his talents to South Bend, Ind., for a season, he’s quite familiar with the Syracuse basketball program. He grew up in nearby Baldwinsville, starring for Baker High School before competing in his junior and senior years at the powerhouse La Lumiere School in La Porte, Ind.

In the 2022 class, Starling was a five-star, top-25 national prospect and a McDonald’s All-American as a senior at La Lumiere. He picked up a scholarship offer from the ‘Cuse in August of 2019, took two official visits to the Hill and had the Orange in his top five before committing to the Fighting Irish.

Starling is part of an athletic, deep and versatile backcourt for Syracuse basketball in 2023-24. I’m happy that he’s healthy, I think his shooting percentages will go up, and I believe that J.J. Starling will contend for All-ACC honors in the upcoming season.

When asked about playing for the ‘Cuse in 2023-24, he told SyracuseOnSI, “It feels amazing. Having this opportunity, I’m beyond blessed. Being able to play in front of my friends and family, it’s a surreal moment. I think I look good in Orange, so the color’s grown on me pretty quick.”

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