Perhaps the two biggest obsessions of Georgetown students and alumni met Wednesday night when sophomore point guard Markel Starks participated in the inaugural Georgetown University Student Association vice-presidential debate.
Starks, who is GUSA Senator Daniel LaMagna’s (COL ’13) running mate, wants to eventually run for Congress, according to his online athletic department biography. But his interest in campus politics was minimal until fellow Georgetown Prep alum LaMagna approached him in the fall about running for office.
“Until I got invited to do this, I didn’t know who [GUSA President] Mike [Meaney (SFS ’12)] and [Vice President] Greg [Laverriere (COL ’12)] were. … I think Daniel and I want to make ourselves more available to everybody,” Starks said.
Despite his lack of GUSA experience, the 6-foot-2 point guard appeared relaxed and comfortable at the debate. Though he avoided speaking about the details of fund allocation and policymaking — cracking at one point that he “didn’t want to play the numbers game” — Starks approached his questions with a matter-of-fact tone and used humor to win over the audience.
“He did a pretty good job,” junior forward Hollis Thompson said. “I think he’s going to make a very good politician one day. He’s well poised, he knows what he’s talking about [and] he seems to be very passionate about it.”
Head Coach John Thompson III appeared somewhat less enthusiastic about Starks’ candidacy.
“Students have extracurriculars, and sometimes they pursue them,” he said.
Starks brushed off a moderator’s question about his ability to manage the major time commitments of Division I men’s basketball and participation in student government, citing Skype and YouTube as methods he would use, if elected, to stay in touch with the student body, even while on the road.
“It’s not taking anything away from schoolwork or basketball. I wouldn’t have done it if it was taking away from that,” he said.
Starks is not the first men’s basketball player to run for vice president. Senior center Henry Sims ran last year alongside former GU Improv President Jed Feiman (COL ’12), garnering 39.4 percent of the vote in the final round of the election and finishing in second place to Meaney and Laverriere. Despite the loss, Sims still had a few words of wisdom to impart upon his younger teammate.
“I just told him to enjoy it, have fun. These chances don’t come around too often,” Sims said. “I think it’s something he plans to do in the future as well. You learn from it, but stay focused at the same time.”
While opposing candidates may be able to school the point guard in the Xs and Os of budget policies, neighborhood relations and university bureaucracy, Wednesday night showed that Starks has a knack for political rhetoric.
That, combined with the name recognition he provides for his ticket, might propel Starks to a better finish than some expect. And even if he doesn’t win the GUSA vice presidency, the sophomore might have a bright future in politics.
“He had the whole room laughing,” senior guard Jason Clark said. “I’ve never really seen that part of Markel, but last night made me realize that he will be very successful in life, basketball or not basketball.”