City prep star returns to play for Gophers

SOECharlesHallmansquareThere are approximately 100 African American and other student-athletes of color this school year at the University of Minnesota. In an occasional series throughout the 2014-15 school and sports year, the MSR will highlight many of these players. This week: Gopher women’s basketball transfer Allina Starr.SOE.starr.30

Allina Starr is Gophers Head Coach Marlene Stollings’ first city signee. The Minneapolis DeLaSalle High School graduate will be eligible to play at the conclusion of the 2015 fall semester due to NCAA transfer rules.

“I’m happy to be home and playing in front of family,” says Starr. She originally planned to attend Georgetown, but when the coach left for Auburn, Starr followed her down South. “I had a lot of homesickness,” she admits.

“Starr wasn’t happy, and I reached out to her because I didn’t see her on the [Auburn] roster,” says her high school coach, Faith Johnson Patterson. “I asked her if she’d consider coming home. The U has a new coach, and I met her. She came home, and I brought her to a couple of games, and once she saw a different style of play, she became interested.”

The 5’-10” forward tells the MSR that she met with the Gopher coaches in early January “and told them I wanted to be part of the program. They called me the following Monday and asked me to be a Gopher.”

“She is the first [Gopher] out of 22 Division I athletes” that she coached, notes Johnson Patterson on Starr, who played on three state tournaments at DeLaSalle. “In fact, this is the first time I felt more welcomed and more respected when I talked to [Coach Stollings] about one of my athletes.”

Although she can only practice with the squad and sit in street clothes watching her soon-to-be teammates in action, Starr says she’s getting “a feel of the team.”

When asked if Starr’s signing signals an about-time shift at the U of M to signing more city female basketball players, Johnson Patterson compares it to her nephew and DeLaSalle senior Jarvis Johnson signing last fall to play Gopher men’s basketball next season.

“I think it shocked the community,” states the Hall of Fame high school coach. “I think because Starr is so familiar in the community and a lot of kids like her and look up to her, absolutely in terms of the community she’s an impact person coming in.”

Starr says the biggest lesson she’s learned thus far is the work ethic needed to effectively compete in collegiate play, which “is a totally different level” than in high school. “The pace is much faster and the [basketball] IQ has to be there. You got to be able to listen to your coaches.”

Now at Minnesota, Starr plans to study sociology. “I hope to one day be a detective or an FBI agent,” she says.

Come next January Starr will have three years of eligibility remaining. “I can’t wait to be out there,” she says.

Furthermore…

Senior thrower Devin Stanford is among the 20 seniors expected to be honored this Saturday at Minnesota’s final home indoor track meet, the annual Parents Day invite at the school’s Fieldhouse. Stanford will be featured in a future Gopher 100.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com