Junior transfer Starks named newcomer of the week

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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For the last three weeks, junior Jajuan Starks has been one of the Panthers’ top scorers and rebounders and final got recognition for it.

Starks was named the OVC Newcomer of the Week for his performances in the Panthers’ last two games.

Both games resulted in losses, but Starks averaged 15.5 points in the two games, including a season-high 27 against Big East Marquette.

He struggled a bit against Bradley, but did enough to receive the honor. But coming into the season as a junior transfer, these types of expectations were not set for him by coach Jay Spoonhour.

“He’s been awful good,” Spoonhour said. “You don’t expect any new guy to do that. He’s a good player and you knew it was possible, but it’s a hard adjustment for guys.”

He added eight rebounds in the Panthers’ loss to Marquette and it was a game that Eastern almost pulled off, but ended with an 86-83 loss.

Starks did not have anywhere near the type of game against Bradley Friday he did against Marquette earlier in the week, scoring just four points and pulling down five rebounds against the Braves.

Spoonhour may not have expected to have Starks come out as hot as he did, but it happened and now other teams are seeing it, just as Bradley did.

“It’s going to change, it’s going to go up and down this year,” Spoonhour said. “It’s going to get harder here for a little while and then he’ll come back. The season goes in cycles a little bit.”

Starks said he is loving it at Eastern right now.

Eastern having four key seniors from its team in 2016-2017 returning to the team already had eyes on them from around the conference, which even had Eastern Kentucky’s coach Dan McHale calling the Panthers the team to beat in the OVC.

Now that is coupled with Starks’ efficiency offensively and defensively. He has 24 defensive rebounds and eight steals, which is first and second on the team, respectively.

Spoonhour said the rest of the newcomers such as Michael Chavers and D’Angelo Jackson are starting to fill bigger roles even in the hard adjustment.

“That’s where guys like Michael Chavers is going through that and so is D’Angelo,” Spoonhour said.

Jackson has 53 points this season and averages 8.8 points per game and Chavers has 24 points this season and averages 3.4 points per game.

Jackson leads the team in free throws, a category that he was brought in to help the Panthers get better in. He is 20-36 from the free throw line.

Chavers recognizes that it is a tough transition, but feels that he is starting to adjust.

“I’m still getting my feet wet and figuring things out,” Chavers said. “(Starks) figured out things a little quicker than I did, but we’re still working.”

Chavers said that he and all the newcomers, besides freshman Mack Smith stay together and that has helped them make the transition.

“We’ve been gelling at the house and the returners have also helped us a gel little bit, because we are with them (off the court) as well,” Chavers said.

Eastern’s record is 2-5 and four out of the five losses have combined for only 10 points.

Sean Hastings can be reached 581-2812 or [email protected]