LAS VEGAS -- Traveling the NBA country with a Shaq-sized chip on your shoulder can’t be easy.
Markel Starks is making moves all the same.
The former Georgetown star – and he’s like 37 seconds into the “former” distinction – and current member of the Minnesota Timberwolves summer league team finished his four years on the Hilltop. The last one ended with first-team All-Big East honors and a 17.3 per-game scoring average.
The draft workout grind then started immediately. Starks shined at the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational, otherwise known as a showcase for prospects not headed to the draft lottery or the first round. The guard with shooting range and confidence for miles starred in a college All-Star game and then went coast-to-coast pre-draft working out for NBA teams, including the Wizards.
Those efforts led to DraftExpress.com moving Starks into and up their top 100 rankings after no mention during the past college season.
Those efforts did not lead to any NBA selecting him on draft night.
“It was disappointing just from the standpoint I thought my name was a lot stronger out there just from the workouts,” Starks told CSNwashington during an interview at the Las Vegas summer league. “What I did at Portsmouth, the college All-Star game, I thought my name was out there a little bit stronger. But, hey, it’s basketball. It’s a business. Just got to move on, use it as fuel.”
Going undrafted leads to disappointment, sure, of course. But stunning, no, or at least it shouldn't be, especially with 2014 considered a deeper than usual class. Starks offers world-class competitiveness in a generic 6-foot-2 basketball body. He’s not tall for his position, not a major leaper, not a knockdown shooter, not a natural point guard, though who is anymore.
Yet Starks is in his second NBA summer league of the month, one of the rare players to participate in the Orlando version and then Las Vegas.
“When I say I haven’t had a week off, I haven’t had a week off,” the tireless worker said.
This is his doing, the Accoceek (Md.) native believes. He improved each season at Georgetown and not just incrementally. He put in the pre-draft work, traveled from site to site, from town to town, from team to team.
“I played my way into this position,” Starks said on Saturday following Minnesota’s summer league game. “(There) wasn’t a lot of help along the way. I went to the necessary camps, I went to the necessary workouts. Anytime I showed what I could do I obviously showed. Obviously, college wasn’t enough. The college All-Star game was great. The Portsmouth Invitational, my team workouts. I’ve really proven myself that I can play at this level. I wasn’t highly regarded. If I didn’t go to Portsmouth and did what I did, I wouldn’t be here. Just moving forward, I’m thankful for the opportunity. Hopefully I can impress some people and hopefully make a team.”
Starks clarified the idea of receiving little help during his journey.
“Just from the standpoint of getting my name out there very strong. It wasn’t out there like I thought. Regardless of my numbers, my name just wasn’t out there like that. I’ve proven myself. I’m more than I showed in college. I’m a player, I can play the game. They’re building blocks. Came into this without a name and moving forward, you have to show people you can do this on a consistent basis. That’s what I’m looking to do.”
Starks had four points, three rebounds and two assists in 12 minutes during Minnesota’s loss to Dallas on Saturday. He didn’t record a stat in Sunday’s matchup against Washington and former Georgetown teammate Otto Porter.
Each summer league team is loaded with dreamers. For some, the NBA option is pure fantasy. Markel Starks’ own reality has him in position to make a team. Is he right? We’ll see. There are only so many available jobs each year, but he’s made moves to get this far. If those roster slots are allocated based on self-belief, then Starks is a shoo-in.
“That’s the biggest thing out here: You have to play with confidence, you have to believe in your ability,” Starks said. “If you don’t believe in your ability, then you’re just a guy with a jersey on.”