Burwell Aims For Division I Schools
By Jordan Ingram
Life is a game of risks, some of which lead to the ultimate victory or a total comeuppance in the end. When most high school players end their senior season and receive D-I offers they immediately pull their cards and end the game. For rising fifth-year guard Mike Burwell Jr., being a mid-major basketball player simply wasn’t enough.
“My father’s a real inspiration to me and I want to go above what he did,” said Burwell. “He’s done a lot in his career and I just want to say that I did more than him and for myself I want to be able to say I played at the highest level.”
Burwell’s father, Mike Burwell Sr., currently has set the bar extremely high for his son to surpass. After starting his college at Middlesex Community College, the older Burwell finished his school days at William Patterson University where he received D-III Player of the Year honors grabbed a school record 22 rebounds in his 1983 senior season.
After receiving his degree from William Patterson, Burwell Sr. started his 11 year journey through the pro basketball ranks. Originally cut by the then Washington Bullets, he played for Larry Brown’s brother Herb in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) for one season. Soon after he played overseas in stints that included the well- known countries like Portugal, Argentina, and France but also far reaching basketball cities like Venezuela and Paraguay.
While playing in Argentina Burwell Sr. met his son’s mother Alicia Burwell whom he brought back to the states. Though the two are currently divorced and remarried, Burwell Jr. has the ability to play for the Argentinean National Team if he ever makes the pro ranks like his father.
These high expectations don’t bother Burwell Jr. but have always helped keep the 6-foot-7 standout focused on the task at hand. Though the 205-pound upperclassmen averaged 29.7 points, 11.2 rebounds, and drained 112 3-pointers in his senior season at Cardinal McCarrick High School, he only received mid-major D-I attention.
After spurning mid-majors like Fairleigh Dickinson, Monmouth, Iona, St. Peter’s and the University of San Diego for greener pastures, the lanky guard steadily got to work to ensure his blue chip status. This attitude has turned off some coaches at times and led to criticism that he doesn’t give a full effort in games though he still dominates his competition. Burwell Sr., a workmanlike player in his day, disliked the Tracy McGrady-label that his son undeservedly receives from critics.
“It bothers me because a lot of people like to see guys diving for loose balls and up in somebody’s jersey playing defense so sometimes I hear that he’s not working hard,” said Burwell Sr. “It bothers me to the point sometimes I have to get on Mike about it and ask him if he’s giving 100 percent but I know my kid never gives anything less than his best effort.”
At Eastern Invitational, Burwell was unique from the other star guards at the College of New Jersey in that he rarely forced the issue offensively. In an environment where unselfish guard play in favor of teammates scoring baskets is frowned upon, the confident prep school transferee wasn’t pressed in his third trip to the camp about losing scholarship offers from major D-I programs.
“I have nothing to lose really in that the [mid-major] scholarships I have will be waiting for me,” said Burwell. “The only way I can go is up right now because I’m doing everything I can in camp to show that I’m perfecting my game showing [college coaches] that I’m getting better.”
If Eastern Invitational was an indication of what’s to come, college coaches will be flocking to him soon enough. Burwell amazed college coaches consistently through camp whenever he used his sleek frame to maneuver his way to the basket. Being taller than most guards also gave him the luxury of simply posting up defenders for easy baskets.
“I want my coach to be able to put me in any position,” said Burwell. “If there’s a mismatch where the defender’s bigger than me I want to be able to bring him out to the perimeter or if their smaller I’ll look to post up. If the defender is even with me than I want to be able to do any combination I choose.”
With Burwell beginning to receive college attention from Indiana, South Florida, and UCLA, staying true to his convictions is beginning to pay off. At the end of the camp, not only did Burwell’s team finish 8-0 but he also made the all-star team and was ranked as one of the top 20 players in camp for the second straight year.
By transferring to South Kent (Conn.) he will have every chance to succeed as he’ll be surrounded by D-I talent like former St. Raymond’s (N.Y.) star Kevin Parrom. Burwell’s biggest test preparing for a major college program is making it through the first-year coach Kelvin Jefferson’s rigorous practice schedule. With Burwell already being NCAA qualified and heading to prep school as an honor student, the scoring machine will have plenty of time to patent his game for big time competition.
The versatile wing has heard about the Jefferson, a former assistant at American University, tough reputation but believes he has all the tools to amaze him as a super senior.
“I just want to get to the top and I’m willing to do whatever it takes until I get there,” said Burwell. “My old coach [at McCarrick] really acclimated my game [for prep school] the way he was hard-nosed and I started to take on those characteristics. I know Jefferson has a long history in basketball and will push me but that’s why I chose to transfer there in the first place.”