Hoyas guard adjusts to not always having the ball

At 6-foot-2, Markel Starks is happy to be the only typically sized point guard on a Georgetown team that starts four players 6-8 or taller. With the ball handling responsibilities Hoyas coach John Thompson III requires of all his players, just because Starks best fits the description doesn't mean he's the only one playing the position.

"Greg [Whittington] plays guard. Otto [Porter Jr.] plays guard," Hoyas coach John Thompson III said. "If you look at what [Starks is] being asked to do, he's not the lone guard out there."

But as the 15th-ranked Hoyas (10-1) prepare to open Big East play on Saturday at Marquette (10-3), Starks (11.1 ppg, 2.5 apg) does have a unique role by virtue of his experience, physical makeup and skill set. He has had little choice but to mesh that with Thompson's expectations.

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No. 15 Georgetown at Marquette
When » Saturday, 2 p.m.
Where » Bradley Center, Milwaukee

"It was a big adjustment coming in as a freshman because I had dominated the ball so much in high school," Starks said. "It was hard to learn how to play without the ball. It has been a great experience, but it was frustrating when I first got here because I was like, 'Can I have the ball?'?"

It didn't happen very much as a freshman, when Starks played less than 10 minutes per game off the bench. He moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore last season, but Jason Clark and Hollis Thompson carried most of the scoring load in the backcourt and on the wing. Primarily a spot-up 3-point shooter, Starks converted 36.7 percent of his attempts from the arc.

While he's still averaging the same amount of attempts from the perimeter this season -- where he has improved to 44.1 percent -- Starks also has added the attacking element of his game that he always has wanted to demonstrate.

"We've all seen Markel," junior forward Nate Lubick said. "Whether it was in high school [at Georgetown Prep] or in Kenner League, he can score. He can really put the ball in the basket. ... I think he's been doing a good job of that, knowing when he can attack. When he's in attack mode, he's dangerous."

Melding the two sides of Starks' ambitious game hasn't always gone smoothly, and it might explain the only blip in his career. As a sophomore, he started 25 of 31 games and missed just two. The first, at DePaul on Jan. 17, was because of illness; the other, vs. Villanova on Feb. 25, was explained at the time by Thompson as "I just wanted to start Otto and not play Starks."

Starks went on to lose his starting job for the final six games. Thompson characterized his growth this season as part of a "normal maturation process" when asked recently about not being on the same page with his most experienced backcourt player.

"There has been that time this year, too," Thompson said. "That's with every player."

But the Hoyas do have to lean on Starks, and he wouldn't prefer it any other way.

"When the game gets a little bit tight," Starks said, "I think I should -- not dominate the ball but have control over the ball to make sure that we're getting in our correct stuff, getting good shots available late in the game."