Jimmy Starkey’s already planning his next comeback

PHS senior season ends with second knee injury, eyes return to baseball

The Tiger bench watches the game Tuesday night, including injured Jimmy Starkey, Jordan Reinhardt and Bennett Williams.

Sports teach kids many life lessons from how to play as a team and working together to achieve a common goal, how to face adversity and many more.

It’s also taught Jimmy Starkey that life isn’t always fair.

The Princeton High School senior worked his way back from a torn ACL and meniscus to his left knee quarterbacking for the sophomore team during the 2021 spring COVID football season his freshmen year. He made it back for his sophomore hoops season and filled a reserve role on last year’s Sweet 16 Tiger basketball team.

He was ready for his time to shine this year.

Then, in the very first game of the 2023-24 season, he went down with another knee injury. This time to his right knee and his senior season ended just as soon as it started.

“I knew it was gone, but I wasn’t ready to accept that it was over and I tried to go back in,” he said. “I couldn’t play. I wasn’t able to do anything.”

Starkey tried to get his doctor to clear him to play, but the doctor won out. He will have season-ending surgery on Dec. 8 with therapy beginning Dec. 11.

“I’m feeling good. I’m not hardly feeling any pain right now, but I’m like, ‘I feel like I can play right now,’ but obviously not,” he said.

Ottawa's Huston Hart hangs on to the ball while Princeton's Evan Driscoll tries to force a jump while teammate James Starkey falls on the floor during the Dean Riley Shootin' The Rock Thanksgiving Tournament on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023 at Kingman Gym.

It was a cruel lesson that life is indeed not fair at times. But Starkey is keeping his head up.

“It’s really rough missing my senior season of basketball. I’ve been working basically all my life for it,” he said. “But you’ve got to stay on the bright side and roll with the punches. Everything happens for a reason, right? Should make me a better person to get through this.”

Rachel Starkey said basketball has been her son’s passion since he was able to walk shooting at a plastic Playskool hoop in the house. He moved on to an outdoor hoop and would play in all kinds of weather. He also spent so much time playing at the Bureau County Metro Center, Rachel was simply known as “Jimmy’s mom” by all the staff there.

Starkey’s always been a team player, helping out in many community and school events and Special Olympics. When classmate Bennett Williams sustained a season-ending knee injury in football this fall, Jimmy drove him to get the crutches and ice machine he had used before, offering them and his moral support.

Tiger coach Jason Smith was heart broken to see Starkey injured. He went to Starkey’s house on Thanksgiving Eve to give his support.

“He worked his tail off in the summer and offseason to help our team out,” Smith said. “At the end of the Rockridge (last year’s sectional) game, he was the one who said to me, ‘Coach, we’ll get you back here next year.’ That’s always resonated to me. So, we’ve got as close as a player and coach can be.

“It broke my heart when he called me about the news. Like I said with Teegan (Davis), if there’s anybody that can come back, it’s Jimmy.”

Starkey is already planning his next comeback.

He wants to make it back for some of senior baseball season next spring even though doctors are saying no.

“I tore it my freshmen year. I remember it being five months. By that five-month mark, it’ll be April. I think I can be playing baseball,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work, but I think I can do that.”

The Starkeys arrived home from Jimmy’s appointment in Iowa City last week to find a box that was delivered with his basketball shoes and socks.

He told his parents, “Well, I guess I will have them for next year.”

That will come for St. Ambrose University, where Starkey will play hoops and study to become a physical therapist.

* In closing, I’d like to express my deep sadness for the loss of my former BCR boss and friend Ron DeBrock, who passed away last week after an illness at the age of 62. Ron was a great journalist with a distinguished career and taught me many things in our time together 30 years ago. He filled in on sports for me when I took time off. Over the years, he would often send me a note from afar about news he thought I’d be interested in that he saw related to Bureau County. He was famous for his many Facebook puns that were documented in print with graphics by his sidekick Greg Wallace. “Roly,’ you will be greatly missed by many. This “-30-” is for you.

Kevin Hieronymus has been the BCR Sports Editor since 1986. Contact him at khieronymus@bcrnews.com

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