There 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 2015-16 school and sports year, the MSR will highlight many of these players.
This week: Allina Starr brings strong guard skills to Gophers.
Allina Starr sat out the mandatory NCAA transfer time. She played one season at Auburn before transferring to the school just a few miles from where she grew up and graduated from high school.
The 5’-10” De La Salle graduate, since her arrival last January, has practiced with her new Gopher teammates but couldn’t play in games, relegated instead to cheering them on from the bench in game-day sweats. After sitting through this season’s non-conference schedule, “liberation day,” so to speak, came on New Year’s Eve when Starr finally suited up in her team colors, started during the game at Rutgers, and led the Gophers in rebounding.
“It’s been a little rusty the first couple of games,” admitted Starr after the U of M’s January 3 win over Penn State.
She again led Minnesota with seven rebounds against Michigan January 10. Head Coach Marlene Stollings said before the season that she expects the Gopher guards to grab “six-plus rebounds if you play 20 or more minutes.”
Now in Stollings’ three-guard lineup, Starr thus far has logged nearly 30 minutes a game. “Besides that we have a thousand plays and you have to know the play at each position, it’s been fine,” reported Starr. “I pick up on things quick. I think it’s been an easy adjustment.”
“She adjusted well to our system,” said the coach on Starr. “She’s a strong guard. She will add more versatility and a dynamic to our team.”
Starr told us that she’s proud that Coach Stollings wants her to hit the boards. “She has me playing multiple positions. I’m OK with it.
“I’m mostly at the ‘4’ (power forward) because of the bigger guard I am, and the ability to rebound the ball and get us extra shots,” noted Starr. “Even when I played guard in high school, I always guarded bigger girls because I was one of the bigger girls.”
Starr is one of two Minneapolis natives on this year’s squad — Kenisha Bell transferred from Marquette. Like Starr, Bell can only practice with the team and must sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules.
“I am just happy to have the opportunity [to play],” said Starr. “I am just letting the game come to me” rather than trying to make up for a year’s worth of lost time. Any opportunity that I get to be out there, I am happy with it. I am going to contribute in any way I can.”
The redshirt sophomore is on track to graduate later this year — her career goal is to work in forensics and become one of those CSI folk one day. “I actually am going to graduate next December,” after which she plans to pursue a graduate degree in youth studies, “but I am not sure yet. I am a double major in communications and criminology.
“I took most of my criminology classes while I was at Auburn. I was ahead of credits from high school [thanks to advance placement classes], so I started my major classes right away. I had a 3.0 this semester.”
Starr laughed when this columnist, after learning that communications is her second major, suggested that perhaps she’d one day become a crime-solving game announcer, collecting clues when a crime occurs while on the job. “Yeah, I’m sure,” she responded with a smile.
Starr says she is happy to be home. “I absolutely love my team.”
Gopher senior guard Rachel Banham last week passed current WNBAers Odyssey Sims and Monica Wright and two others to reach 48th place on the NCAA’s career scoring list, with nearly 2,600 points. Minnesota hosts Northwestern Wednesday at Williams Arena.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.