Sunday, March 7, 2021 | 10:01 AM
Joey Starzynski has been on center stage in the Baldwin basketball program for the past two years.
He’s been the “star” of the show on most nights, none moreso than Feb. 24 when he scored a career-high 30 points in a 68-53 nonsection win over Albert Gallatin.
A 6-foot-3 senior guard, Starzynski will continue his amped-up hoops career next year at the Kerr Fitness Center on the La Roche campus.
“Joe is a great basketball player,” said Jeff Ackermann, Baldwin’s first-year coach. “He is very athletic, and he is a pure scorer. I have been blessed to coach a lot of great basketball players at Moon and Pine-Richland that were able to go on to the next level and play. I think if Joe works hard in the offseason and continues to develop his game, he can have a great career at La Roche.”
Starzynski was an impact player for the Highlanders the past two seasons — when he was able to play.
Nicknamed “Joey Star” or simply “Star,” the senior backcourt player suffered a broken left wrist in early January and missed the first half of the 2020-21 season.
“Now I am much healthier and blessed to be putting in minutes for my team,” Starzynski said. “Nothing makes me happier knowing that I can play my senior year.”
Starzynski, a two-year starter and three-year letterman, returned to the lineup Feb. 5 on senior night and immediately made his presence felt. The Highlanders defeated the Big Macs, 64-52, to snap a three-game losing skid.
“Joe played his first game for us this year versus Canon-Mac and he had 15 points that night,” Ackermann said. “He had his best game against Albert Gallatin where he scored 30.
“He unfortunately had a large portion of this season wiped out with his broken wrist. It is easy for us to sit here and say what if, but things can’t be changed. I just hope we can make a run in the playoffs and give him some great memories from this season.”
With his unique leaping ability, Starzynski often was positioned in the Highlanders’ frontcourt while on defense.
There were six players 6-3 or taller on the Baldwin roster this year including a talented 6-7 sophomore center, Virgil Hall, who suffered a knee injury and like Starzynski missed much of his team’s action.
“Looking back on the first game until now, I feel we could have done most of the little things better,” Starzynski said. “We’ve got some very athletic big men, Connor Gitzen and Elijah Moore, who are very aggressive in the paint. We also have some tall guards on our roster. Connor Lavelle and James Wesling can both drive and shoot the ball very well.”
Starzynski averaged 15.7 points per game this season. Included in his resume were several momentum-changing dunks along the way.
Against Albert Gallatin, Starzynski connected on 11 of 14 field goal attempts and converted all six of his free throws. He was perfect from the floor in the second half, netting five field goals and five foul shots. He scored twice from 3-point range in the game.
“My career at Baldwin was a trip for me, for sure,” Starzynski said. “It made it a journey with three basketball coaches during my four years here. I will miss all personnel to be honest. Everyone had something great about each and every one of them.”
Starzynski, whose older brother Anthony was a roundball standout at Baldwin and a three-year walk-on player at Pitt, will major in general studies in his freshman year at La Roche
“My brother has moved to Los Angeles to pursue his interests in the entertainment industry,” said Starzynski, who plans to learn the Redhawks’ system under coach Hermie Carmichael in his first semester in college.
“My expectations at La Roche are to take everything slow, step by step,” Starzynski said. “I feel it will not be the right approach if I attempt to take everything on all at once.”
There are 15 former WPIAL hoopsters on the La Roche men’s basketball roster in 2020-21.