Back in 2010, Jonathan Stark was an under-six-feet sophomore point guard for Brighton High School. He was well-known in local basketball circles for sure, but not a lot of people would have predicted that four years later he'd be ranked as one of the top 26 college freshmen basketball players in the country.
Following his impressive 2013-14 freshman season at Tulane, Stark was named one of 26 Freshman All-Americans by CollegeInsider.com.
The list includes players headed to the NBA like Duke's Jabari Parker and Kansas' Andrew Wiggins.
"This is an outstanding honor for Jonathan," Tulane head coach Ed Conroy said. "He really developed throughout the season and helped this team accomplish many of our goals. He has outstanding coachability and attacked every practice and every game with a lot of enthusiasm and energy."
Stark, who is now listed at six feet, transfered to Munford for his senior season. He averaged 19 points and 3.5 assists a game, was named the district MVP and led the Cougars to a district title.
He still didn't get any offers from high-major schools, so he ended up signing at mid-major Tulane.
"A lot of people (recruiters) were a little shy on him," said his father, Jerry Stark. "He didn't really get the offer that I thought he deserved. Then he ended up being one of the stars on the team." Stark's freshman statistics at Tulane proved his father's point: 14.5 points per game (second on the team), 4.2 assists (second), 37.2 minutes per game (first), 45 made 3-pointers (second) and 38 percent from 3-point range (second).
He led the team in scoring 12 times, scored a career-high 25 in his third game, was named the Conference USA Freshman of the Week three times, Player of the Week once and finished second in Conference USA Freshman of the Year voting.
Jonathan Stark takes all of his success in stride.
"I think I had a pretty good season," he said last week while home on a break from school. "I didn't expect to play as much as I did." Butch Hopkins was Stark's coach during his freshman season at Munford.
Hopkins said he told more than one recruiter they were missing the boat by not recruiting his star point guard.
"As far as physically, you're not going to find many better for a guy his size," Hopkins said. "His vertical jump makes him a player a lot bigger than he is. His speed and quickness is something to behold. I haven't seen anybody that can trap him."
Before Stark's senior season, Hopkins spent a lot of time with him in gym. Hopkins had an idea to rework his jump shot, something that many players with Stark's talent would resist.
"One thing that makes him different than most players is how coachable he is," Hopkins said. "I asked him to change his shot. He was going to be a senior and he never complained one bit. Within four or five weeks of three or four hours a day working on it, you could see it getting better and better. Anything you asked him to do he tries to do."
"He helped me out a lot," Stark said. "He helped keep me motivated. He was a big part in my success this year. He always told me to keep working and don't take any days off, to treat every drill like it was your last." Next season Stark's ability will not be a secret.
Tulane moves into the American Athletic Conference with traditional powers like Memphis, Cincinnati and Connecticut, the defending national champs. Stark will play one game in FedExForm in Memphis and plenty of games will be on national television.
"It will give us, as a team, a lot of exposure," Stark said. "I think we'll just have to stay focused. With me being point guard, Ill try and be a leader and keep everybody on the same page. I think it will be a great oppotunity for me to show my talent."
Said Hopkins: "Being in that conference and everything, he's going to get a lot more publicity.
You can't do much better than being picked among the best 26 freshmen in the country. If he can stay in the top 26 as a sophomore, now he's going somewhere ...I think there's no limit to what the young man's going to do.”