Starr rekindles love of basketball at Minn.

The guard sat out last season after transferring from Auburn University.

Kaitlin Merkel

Gophers sophomore guard Allina Starr thought about quitting basketball altogether after one season at Auburn University.
 
 
Starr averaged 13.9 minutes and 1.4 points and rebounds per game in 20 games for the Tigers during the 2013-14 season.
 
 
The Minneapolis native also struggled with being about 1,200 miles away from home in Alabama.
 
 
“I was very homesick. I didn’t enjoy the program as much, [and] I kind of fell out of love with basketball,” Starr said.
 
 
She decided to transfer to a historically black college in Tennessee to be closer to her older sister.
 
 
Those plans changed in early January 2015 when Minnesota head coach Marlene Stollings called in the middle of her first season with the Gophers and offered Starr a scholarship.
 
 
“We knew we wanted to bring back as many Minnesota players as we could from the moment we got here,” Stollings said. “We felt that several of them [that] had gotten away might entertain the idea of coming back.”
 
 
The Gophers officially announced Starr’s transfer on Jan. 21, 2015, meaning while she could practice with the team, she was not eligible to play until after the 2015 fall semester due to NCAA transfer rules.
 
 
“It was really hard because I was used to being out there on the floor,” Starr said. “[But] seeing things that the coaches see … it just gave me a chance to learn the game more and be able to excel.”
 
 
Starr became eligible to play in December, and Stollings has started Starr in every game since Dec. 31, which also marked the beginning of Big Ten conference play. Starr has seen some time at guard, but she has mainly played forward in her six games with the Gophers.
 
 
“It’s just been great, getting ready for about two years now. It’s been a long time,” Starr said. “Coach [Stollings] just told me to get ready at any position she puts me at and she gave me the opportunity to play the four position and I’m just trying to take advantage of it.”
 
 
Stollings said Starr’s size and quickness allow Minnesota to take advantage of bigger frontcourt opponents.
 
 
“She’s great at penetrating to the basket. She has great athleticism, great speed,” Stollings said. “We’re certainly going to utilize her … going against bigger people and attacking their lack of foot speed because she [has] superior athleticism.”
 
 
In her six starts, Starr has averaged 22.2 minutes, 4.8 points, and four rebounds. She scored a season-high 10 points in Minnesota’s win on Sunday against Indiana.
 
 
“She’s been huge, especially just [as] an extra body,” redshirt senior guard Rachel Banham said. “She’s a little bit more undersized when it comes to the height at the four position, so that makes it easier for her to drive on some of the big girls that are guarding her.”
 
 
Starr — who is now not only eligible to play but has broken into the starting lineup — said she is thankful for the opportunity to reconnect with basketball close to home.
 
 
“Coming here, the coaches gave me a great opportunity, and I never thought I would play in maroon and gold, but I’m here now, and I love it,” Starr said.