Men’s basketball player Ahmad Starks will miss 2013-14 season

Illinois men’s basketball player Ahmad Starks will miss the 2013-14 season, the athletic department announced Tuesday evening.

Starks, who transferred from Oregon State to be closer to his ailing grandmother in his hometown of Chicago, had his hardship waiver request denied by the NCAA. Starks appealed the decision, but the NCAA upheld the original decision. He will now have one year of eligibility remaining for the 2014-15 season.

“We are all disappointed with the decision to deny the waiver and especially feel bad for Ahmad and his family,” head coach John Groce said in a statement. “Ahmad had a compelling case, returning to his home state to be closer to an ailing grandmother who played an instrumental role in raising him; however, we now have to move forward.”

Illinois will now be one player short of where it expected to be this season. Starks, a 5-foot-9 point guard, averaged 10.4 points and 2.3 assists per game last season for the Beavers. He also shot 39.5 percent from beyond the arc and would have been a key asset to Groce’s 3-point-heavy offense.

Instead, Starks’ role as back-up point guard will likely be filled by freshman Jaylon Tate, a three-star point guard from Simeon Vocational High School in Chicago. Fellow freshmen wings Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn could also play a role in backing up Tracy Abrams.

The decision also creates a sticky situation for the Illini in 2014-15. Illinois currently has three committed players in the 2014 class but only two open scholarships for the team, meaning one person, either a commit or current player will not be on scholarship for the Illini next season. The news also makes it more difficult for Illinois to fit five-star power forward Cliff Alexander, who will be visiting campus Oct. 26, onto the roster, though it’s likely Groce would make room for Alexander.

Johnathan can be reached at [email protected] and @jhett93.