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Texas A&M Basketball

1-on-1 with TJ Starks: On basketball journey, work ethic and more

March 7, 2018

On how much fun he’s having playing the game…

“I’m having too much fun. So, everyday I just come in the gym – I work out three times a day, so when I get on the floor it’s just so natural to me. So I just try to use my abilities the best way I can, and so it just makes me happy when I’m on the court really.”

On how he fits into the system as a player and a teammate…

“I would say being a good listener — listening to what the coaches say. If they tell you to do one thing, that’s what you have to do. If they tell you to do another thing, you have to do it. It’s just staying focused, applying what they teach us in practice and apply it to the game, being focused on the goal and the goal is to get a win every game and get to the National Championship.”

On increased playing time…

“I knew I wanted to be on the floor, so I just was like next play mentality. That’s all it was — another day in the books. So, I was like, 'Let me just stay in the gym constantly, constantly working on my game.' And I knew my time was going to come and knew my name was going to be called eventually. So, I just stayed at it, stayed persistent and stayed determined, and I got my time to shine and I’m doing what I love to do.”

On film study and on-court experience…

“I would say it’s a little bit of both because you always need film to see what you need to work on. So, I would say film is a big part of me maturing and upping my game as well as game-by-game, in between games working out, just working on in game situations, game like moves. So, every day I just look at every day to get better. No matter if it’s film or working out physically, I just apply it to the game and I’m just doing what I know how to do.”

On where his confidence comes from…

“I would say my confidence just comes from within myself, being that I come from a city where we don’t have much. And I didn’t have much when I was growing up, so I just look at that as motivation, and I just think back on my past and like where I come from, I wanted more than a lot of people. So, I just use that as motivation to keep me going and going and going and just build my confidence.”

On playing basketball at the next level…

“Ever since I knew about basketball, once I saw a basketball I just was like, ‘I want to go to the highest level possible.’ So I knew it was the NBA. I just was like, ‘That’s where I want to go. I want to play with the highest-paid athletes, the best athletes in the world.’ I don’t want to be with major players or players under the NBA; I just want to go to the NBA and compete at the highest level.”

On how his game has developed over time….

“It took time for sure. I’ve always been an athlete, though. You can ask my people or people that have always been around me — I’ve always been a great athlete, and I was always able to produce. So, I just worked on my game like I say every day – every day I was in the gym working out. My momma used to tell me like, ‘You need to slow down. You need to get rest.' And I was like, ‘No, mom, I’ve got to get it.’ So that just was motivation as well to just keep going and going and going to get where I want to go.”

On playing football….

“Yeah actually when I was like nine or ten I used to play for Deion Sanders. You can see me all in Dick’s Sporting Goods on big posters and stuff. I used to do photo shoots and stuff like that. So, a lot of people thought I was going to the NFL, but I was like, ‘No, this is not what I want to do.’ So once I got a ball in my hand, a basketball in my hand, I was just like, ‘This is what I like. I like basketball.’ Because football is – like it’s cool, but it’s too dangerous. It’s just too much head injuries and stuff like that. So I just was like, 'Let me go to basketball so I can just get my craft and show people what I really got.'”

On his family…

“I've got three brothers. Two of them that are way older than me — 30 and 26, and I've got a sister. She’s 30, as well. And then I've got a little brother. He’s 12. We all just grew up in an apartment, a three-bedroom apartment, and me and my two brothers – we slept in the same room. It was really rough for me growing up, and it was like sports were my only outlet. I grew up in a bad environment – like they did a lot of robbing, killing stealing all that stuff. So I just tried to look at it as a positive outlook on getting out of the hood and being a role model for the people who come from where I come from. You ain’t gotta go that route. You can go a different route, and you don’t have to be rich to get a scholarship or go to college. You can get it by getting on the court and grinding every day, and that’s what I did. I grind every day and got what I deserve. Texas A&M – they offered me a scholarship, and I’m making the best of it. I won’t take it for granted at all.”

On avoiding negative influences while growing up...

“There were a couple times where I was like, ‘Is this what I want to do?' Because I had homeboys who would influence me to do bad things. And I can’t lie, I used to do bad things, but I just had to focus and like really realize sitting at home by myself nobody's really with me when times are rough, so it’s like I’m by myself. So at the end of the day, I had to leave them alone because they didn’t want what was best for me; they wanted what was best for them. So I just was like, 'Let me do my own thing and go my separate route.' And look where I am now.”

On how basketball helped save him when times were rough…

“Basketball can definitely save your life from a city where I’m from, Oak Cliff. That’s like the worst part to stay in. They are roguish out there. They don’t care. They’re heartless. So being that I come from Oak Cliff, I’m heartless, but I know how to care for people and show love because I know people showed me love when I was down bad. So I just use it as motivation, and like I say all the time, it’s just motivation and it just helps me grind and I just think about it every day. Like I really came from nothing, and I’m really moving up on the charts and I’m really chasing my dream and
getting where I want to go.”

On how his work ethic can influence players coming in behind him…

“I would say that for sure because a lot of kids from my area, my city, they look up to me, and they tell me, ‘You're big bro. I look up to you, and I want to be just like you.’ So I can’t let them down, so that’s why I’m in the gym two, three times a day — even after practice. I've just got to get it because I've got to show these people like you really can make it and you don’t have to go down the wrong route and be like these other people. Be your own person. Get it on your own.”

On who he looks up to…

“I would say my big bro because he’s got so much finesse, so much swag, but as far as like hooping, I look up to myself. I get my game from Damien Lillard, but other than that, I look up to myself. I've got my own style, my own style of play, so as far as looking up to somebody I say my big brother, Jerrod.”

On what his parents are like…

“My parents, they’re pretty old now, but they love me to death. I know that for sure. They’re always going to tell me what’s right and what’s wrong. For my pops, he’s going to always be there. He didn’t always have the money or the financial stability, but he was always like telling me, ‘Hey I’m going to lead you in the right direction, tell you what’s right, tell you what’s wrong.’ And my momma she just was like, just a mother. You know how mothers are. They are just crazy about their sons. She never let me get screwed over by any coaches, but she knew like if the coach genuinely cared about me and got on me and coached me hard, she was like, 'This is where you
need to be.' So that’s why we chose A&M. I love my parents to death — I wouldn’t be here without them because they were the ones who just showed me like that other life is not where you want to be. Because I used to try to make decisions like, ‘No, this isn’t for me.’ This and that with weed this and that with drugs, and it just wasn’t the answer. And I tell my people like, 'I don’t wanna hoop no more,' and I’d tell them like, ‘This hooping ain’t for me.’ And they kept telling me, ‘Stay at it. Stay at it.’ I just listened to them and stayed in the gym, stayed in the gym, and see? It all pays off now.”

On what it was like playing for Lancaster High School…

“You would have like a whole little section of people just like calling your name and like, 'Let’s go!' And they would tell me, 'It’s T.J. time,' and they would call me 'the world' — the whole student section would say, ‘It’s the world.’ Meaning like it’s my world and I’m taking over, and they knew like when they say that, they knew it was time to go. I’d just take over a game. It’s just crazy. I love Lancaster.”

On staying humble…

“It’s hard. It’s very hard to try and be humble. I manage to maintain it because like I said, my parents – they just always tell me, ‘Be humble. Show people what you want to see.’ They just tell me like, ‘Be the right person. Be who you want other people to see.’ I would just always be humble and level-headed. I would never let it get to me and affect my game in a bad way. I just use it as positivity to keep growing and bring more fans in.”

On how happy he is to be A&M and where he sees the team going…

“When I first got here, I just was like, ‘This is the place to be,’ and as the season grew I just was like, ‘Man I don’t know just where I want to be,’ because of course, I wasn’t playing. But now, since I just put in the work and it’s all paying off, I just was like, ‘This is the greatest season I’ve ever made,’ because I just stuck through it, stayed down. That’s really all it is. Just staying focused, staying determined... I’m very confident in my teammates because we’re just so connected and so tight, and I just feel like we’ve got this and we’re going to get far in the tournament.”

On making a postseason run…

“I’m very motivated being that I’m a freshman, I’ve never experienced it. I live for moments like these. I’m not scared. If anybody thinks that I’m scared, I’m not backing down. I’m ready for the challenge, and I will step up. And I just want to let everybody know that I am here. T.J. Starks is putting in work, and I will pass the people not putting work and that’s a fact.”

Discussion from...

1-on-1 with TJ Starks: On basketball journey, work ethic and more

8,260 Views | 7 Replies | Last: 6 yr ago by Captn_Ag05
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"T.J. Starks is putting in work, and I will pass the people not putting in work and that's a fact."

Love that.
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Papa Joe
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Great interview!
Gig 'em TJ!!!
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Anybody else feel like he could be a really good player if he were just a little bit more confident?
Isaih Smollett
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love this guy
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Ready to see him kick some ass in the ncaa tournament
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GE said:

Anybody else feel like he could be a really good player if he were just a little bit more confident?
Absolutely, if he just believed in himself a little bit more, I think he would be next level.
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