Illini's Starks awaits hardship waiver ruling

Illinois senior guard Ahmad Starks is still awaiting a decision from the NCAA on whether he will be permitted a hardship waiver and be eligible to play this season, Illinois coach John Groce said on Friday.

Starks transferred to Illinois from Oregon State after the last school year to be closer to his ailing grandmother in Chicago. Starks’s grandmother helped raise him. If Starks doesn’t receive the waiver, he will have to sit out this season and will be eligible next season.

“Obviously, you always want to know,” Groce said prior to practice Friday in a video posted by Illinois. “We continue to have dialogue back and forth with our compliance office and the NCAA. We want to know. The kid, most importantly, he wants to know. I feel for the kid. We’re going to know sooner than later. We’re finishing up a couple of things and should have a formal answer here soon.”

Starks, who attended Whitney Young High School in Chicago, started 73 games in three seasons at Oregon State. He averaged 10.4 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.0 steal as a junior. He is Oregon State's career leader in 3-pointers made and shot 64-of-162 from 3-point range last season.

Starks could be a major contributor in the Illini's backcourt this season if eligible. Illinois returns point guard Tracy Abrams, who started 32 games as a sophomore last season. Freshman Jaylon Tate is the only other scholarship point guard on the roster.

Illinois went 23-13 overall and 8-10 in the Big Ten and reached the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament last season in Groce’s first season. The Illini return four players who saw playing time last season.