The Stark Factor: Tulane’s dynamic guard

Sophomore guard Jonathan Stark shoots a floater in the 62-55 loss to Tulsa Feb. 25 in Devlin Fieldhouse. Stark averages 11 points per game and 4.3 assists. 

Sophomore guard Jonathan Stark shoots a floater in the 62-55 loss to Tulsa Feb. 25 in Devlin Fieldhouse. Stark averages 11 points per game and 4.3 assists. 

Mackenna Barker, Associate Sports Editor

He’s known as “The Hurt” to his friends and fans. With relentless speed and a nasty crossover that can send any opponent into a backpedal, sophomore guard Jonathan Stark truly knows how to put “The Hurt” on his rivals.

The Tennessee native stepped into a huge role in the Wave’s rotation as soon as he arrived in New Orleans in his freshman season. With no other point guards above him, he immediately stepped into the role of running the team on the court, and did so impressively.

In his first collegiate season, Stark averaged 14.5 points per game, as well as claiming a Tulane No. 5 best single season assist record with a total of 143 dimes. Right away he was a driving force the Wave needed.

“The coaches give me great confidence and run of the team, and the players trust me being the point guard on the court,” Stark said.

With 111 assists so far this season, Stark continues to be a strong facilitator that pushes the pace for the team and proves himself skilled in finding looks for his teammates.

“[Stark] is at his best when he’s fearless and aggressive out there,” head coach Ed Conroy said. “We like to get the ball up to him so he can push the pace and create opportunities for others. When he’s doing that, more things open up for a lot of our guys.”

A testament to Stark’s skill as a facilitator is his on-court relationship with teammate Louis Dabney, who is another cog in the guard trio of Stark, Dabney and senior sharpshooter Jay Hook. Dabney is consistently Tulane’s top scorer with an average of 13 points per game. The junior guard and Stark have an undeniable on-court chemistry, and the two feed off of each other’s energy.

“[Dabney and I] have a great relationship,” Stark said. “When I first came here in the summer before my freshman year, he was my roommate so he and I clicked as soon as I got here. It’s been like that ever since.”

However, despite having a roster stacked with talent and coming out as a force in the American Athletic Conference, Tulane faced adversity in the last month, falling to seven of its last eight opponents. Many of these games were marked by scoring droughts on Tulane’s part and several came down to the final minutes and last few possessions.

“I think we just have to execute a little bit better towards the end, defensively as well as offensively,” Stark said. “I think we’re getting pretty good looks, we’re just not knocking them down. [Conroy] is always preaching to us ‘process over result,’ so that’s what we’re working on.”

In the last month, however, there has been one burst of light among the seven losses. On February 14 in Cincinnati, with less than five seconds remaining in the game and the Wave down by two points, Stark bolted down the court to hit a 25-foot 3 pointer at the buzzer.

It’s worth noting that in those final five seconds, Conroy still had a timeout to draw up a play, but opted to let his players take the reins. Granting his players that power in such a crucial moment is another testament to the faith he has in Stark and the rest of the team.

“It’s something we’ve worked on a lot in game situations,” Conroy said. “I think Stark understands and Dabney as well what we needed to do in that situation. Stark does a great job because he has such great speed, he can get the ball down the floor in a hurry for us.”

The incredible shot and unbelievable win landed Stark on Sports Center Top 10 at the No.2 spot. The resulting buzz around campus was palpable.

“I’ve been walking around campus and people have been saying ‘nice shot’ and things like that, so it’s been pretty nice,” Stark said. “That was one of the biggest shots of my career.”

Tulane heads into the AAC tournament in just a couple of weeks. Whether Stark will make another SC Top 10 moment or simply more mean crossovers Stark picked up from his childhood NBA idol Deron Williams, it’s no debate that this Tulane team has been, and will continue to be one worth watching this season.