Basketball player works through adversity, loss

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COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) -- This time of year, we gather around loved ones and celebrate the holidays, but for one College Station, Texas athlete, this holiday is different.

Aerial Starks has been playing varsity basketball since she was a freshman.

"I remember the first time I met her," said A&M Consolidated Girls Head Basketball Coach Wendy Hines. "She was playing volleyball at the junior high as well. I thought, 'Wow, she's a two-sport athlete,' and then she decided to go ahead and just do basketball."

After countless points, assists and rebounds, it all paid off.

In November, she signed a Division I scholarship to play at the University of Massachusetts, but days before one of the biggest moments of her life, the unthinkable happened.

"I was about to take the bus back to the bus barn, and then she came out and she was crying, and she said, 'Coach Hines, Coach Hines.' She handed me the phone, and it was Dr. (Ernest) Starks friend, Shirly," said Hines. "She said, 'there's been an accident.'"

Aerial's father died from a heart attack. He was a professor at Texas A&M and taught Aerial everything she knows about basketball.

"He expected so much because he told me I was a further along in my stage when I was his age," she said. "He said he wasn't as good as me, so he wanted me to go further in life."

The loss of her father in November has forced Aerial to rely on her faith.

"It's helped me a lot," she said, "because putting your trust in God is really big, and everything happens for a reason and He gives his toughest battles to his toughest soldiers."

"His work is done," said Coach Hines remembering Dr. Starks. "She is a young lady. Even though she was a good freshman, she was a silly freshman, and now to see her the way she is, kind of always like a momma her freshman year, she's just come a long ways."

Read the original version of this article at kbtx.com.