Personality is everything when it comes to an entertaining game. Not only do fans love to see their team play well, but they also like to see them enjoy doing it. It’s the showmanship in the dramatic parts of a game which keep people coming back for basketball madness, and the Racers have a perfect person for the job.
Junior guard Erica Burgess transferred to the Murray State basketball program in 2010 from Southeast Louisiana. She was redshirted as a sophomore, but made an immediate impact on the Racers and brought a faster pace to their offensive style, averaging 16.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game last season.
Her electrifying presence, powerful drives to the rim and agility made her a player to watch.
Burgess said basketball was a strong presence in her life growing up. She got her start in league basketball in 6th grade.
“I haven’t really been playing as long as the other girls,” she said. “After that season in 6th grade, I stuck with it through high school and fell in love with it. I think my cousins got me started in pickup basketball. We had a goal in the back yard. We would just shoot around.”
As a college athlete, Burgess said her favorite part of the game is the showmanship. Showboating, entertaining the crowd and giving a good performance are her favorite parts of being a basketball player.
“I like to showboat a lot,” she said. “I think that’s what comes with being from Memphis. It’s fun when you’re crossing people and the crowd blows up. I like to play and have a good time too.”
Even though she makes it look fun and easy, Burgess has to dedicate much of her time and energy into being the athlete she is.
She said she owes much of her power to the time she puts in the gym and her past experience as a Tae Kwon Do fighter.
“Specifically, pushups keep me in shape,” she said. “I’m always doing pushups. I got my black belt in Tae Kwon Do a while back. I was dedicated to it, but I had to quit so I could keep playing basketball.”
Not only is skill needed to win, but leadership and maturity help keep a team together. Burgess said she has matured more as an athlete and wants to set a good example for her younger teammates.
“I want to be the one to take them under my wing,” she said. “I want to try to get them ready to step in for me one day. They need to understand the way we do things and memorize big plays.”
Burgess said she fell in love with the game and literally meant it. It’s difficult to keep basketball as a priority when an athlete graduates college. The WNBA has very strict standards to play in the league, but Burgess said she is still fighting for a chance to go pro.
“I was planning on trying to play professionally overseas,” she said. “It seems irrational or unrealistic right now, but if I could even make it into the WNBA, that would be great.”
With another year to contemplate the future, Burgess still has another season at Murray State ahead of her on which to focus. She said it’s going to be difficult but hopes for more fans to show up.
“It’ll be tough,” she said. “But I know we’re going to get some support from the crowd. I’m kind of excited to see what we can really do against a Sun Belt Western Kentucky team.”
Head Coach Rob Cross was the first to see her adjustment as a new Racer athlete, and said he is impressed and excited to see how she has grown as a player and how it will translate into games.
“I think you’re going to see a much better player this year,” he said. “Because she had some rust last year, but she does her job every day. She shows up every single day and does more than what she’s capable of doing. It’s so exciting to see the consistency out of her. She’s very dedicated.”
Burgess has also done much better this year focusing more on the team as a whole, said Cross.
She has made sure to step up in communication, vocalize at practice and in games and commit to a more cohesive and bonded team.
“She’s much more vocal this year,” he said. “I’m very proud of how she’s matured as a player since she’s been here. I’m excited for the rest of her career.”
Story by Carly Besser, Staff writer