JJ Starling knew how to build the drama, whether it was intentional or not. His announcement was supposed to come down at 5p ET, but technical difficulties delayed the decision for 11 grueling minutes as fans and media flooded Paul Biancardi’s Instagram account. After it all Starling, a top 30 combo guard who originally hails from just outside Syracuse, chose Notre Dame. That was followed by a huge round of applause from the local Indiana crowd.
The crystal ball didn’t look good last night for SU. 247 Sports national recruiting insider Travis Branham had predicted he would choose Notre Dame. It was another bullseye. Branham’s been crushing it on the 2022 recruiting trail, now batting 39-for-40 in forecasting recruits’ choices. His Starling-to-ND prediction was tagged with a “high” confidence level.
On the first day of the fall evaluation period last month, when coaches could go on the road and recruit in person, Mike Brey’s entire entire staff went to his high school for Starling. The Irish are a distant competitor on the floor for Duke and SU. So how did they nab such a high profile prospect, the type of player Brey has so often been ripped for not landing? Starling is coached at La Lumiere High by Patrick Holmes, a Notre Dame graduate and former student manager under Brey. Notre Dame was among the first schools to contact Starling under NCAA recruiting regulations back in June 2020.
Ever since Kamari Lands decommitted this summer Syracuse has been searching for another elite piece of the ’22 class. The Orange have had sharpshooter Justin Taylor and point guard Quadir Copeland solidly committed. The Orange then added big man Peter Carey, a player who was under the radar for many but brings plenty of upside. The draw however, for Starling was two-fold. He was a legitimate top 30 prospect in America, much like Lands. He also hails from Baldwinsville, a local kid familiar with the allure of the Dome and the program. Allowing a local product of that magnitude to sign elsewhere is a gut punch.
SU was the only program he visited twice, but the SU class (ranked 30th overall by 247 Sports) will have to look elsewhere for its centerpiece. Starling cited Mike Brey’s personality and easy demeanor as the main reason he chose the Irish.
Starling attended Baldwinsville’s Baker High School and averaged 29 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals per game as a sophomore before transferring to La Lumiere (IN) last year. Last year Starling averaged 14.9 points and 1.9 assists per game. In this day of constant player movement, there’s never finality on any roster, but Starling’s commitment would have probably ended the need for any other pieces to this SU class.
The familiarity with players already on the Orange didn’t influence Starling’s decision. His AAU team, the Albany City Rocks, features four current Syracuse players: Buddy and Jimmy Boeheim, Joe Girard and Symir Torrence. His other three finalists included Duke, Northwestern, and Stanford. Now SU looks to Chance Westry and Chris Bunch as the next targets. They’ve been on SU’s list for awhile, and they become even more important with this news.