Ahmad Starks

Ahmad Starks is transferring to Illinois

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Oregon State transfer Ahmad Starks has finally found a landing spot, committing to Illinois on Tuesday night.

Starks left OSU to be closer to his grandmother in Chicago, who is sick. Starks attended Whitney Young HS in the city, one of the best high school programs in the country.

“It’s the state school,” Starks told ESPN.com of his decision to transfer. “It’s always been big for me. I always liked watching it growing up, watching Dee Brown and those guys. I took a visit when Bruce Weber was the coach. I liked the situation there, and it didn’t work out. Being close to home, the alumni situation, all of it is huge. They have a great fan base.

“I’m like a lot of players that plan to be a professional basketball player of some sort when I’m done with college. It’s definitely a good opportunity to play for a team that I can help out and be close to my grandmother. My parents can hopefully bring her down often, every home game and much as possible. It’s a great opportunity to play for coach [John] Groce and his staff and the players there.”

Starks averaged 10.4 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.0 steals as a junior this past season, while also shooting 39% from beyond the arc. The knock on Starks, however, is that he dominates the ball and that he doesn’t necessarily have the greatest shot selection. He’s not a modicum of efficiency; anyone that watched the Beavers play the last couple of seasons will tell you.

But it’s a worthwhile risk for John Groce to take.

For starters, Starks is certainly talented. He can shoot and he can score in bunches, and if Groce can somehow find a channel his aggressiveness, Starks can be a useful piece off the bench in an already loaded back court. Illinois also looks like they may end up being headed for the NIT next season, as they lose Brandon Paul, DJ Richardson and DJ Richardson and already have a roster that will be heavily reliant on transfers.

It makes you wonder: does Groce really need to add Starks to a back court when he has Tracy Abrams, Joseph Bertrand, RayVonte Rice, Kendrick Nunn, Malcolm Hill and Jaylon Tate?

Or is he bringing Starks into the fold for one season to do his best to tap into the well that is Whitney Young?

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the NBCSports.com Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.