Junior guard Erica Burgess has made a swift transition back to the court since her recent suspension, and it looks like she is here to stay.
Burgess was suspended from team activities Jan. 5 alongside senior forward Kyra Watson for what Head Coach Rob Cross said was an issue of conduct detrimental to the team.
Both were forced to sit out for two games and one and a half weeks of practice.
Though the suspension was officially lifted, Burgess still stayed mainly on the bench for what Cross said was for reason of getting back in shape from missing a week’s worth of practices.
Since her absence from the court, she has slowly made her way back onto the court to earn her keep as a key offensive player for the Racers.
Against OVC rival Austin Peay, Burgess led the bench with 16 points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals. With 31 minutes on the court, it was her longest playing time since the beginning of conference play. She said she is glad to return with the team and help win.
“It feels great to finally be back on the court,” Burgess said. “I want to help my teammates out in any way I can. It just feels good.”
Prior to suspension, Burgess was one of the most active players on the roster, playing for 373 minutes and shooting for over 70 percent at the free throw line this season.
The Memphis, Tenn. native earned a name for herself in the 2011-12 season when she averaged 16.8 points per game and 5.3 rebounds. She also earned the OVC Newcomer of the week title six times and was named to the Second Team All-OVC and to the All-OVC Newcomer team.
Though she’s not playing nearly as much as she did in the beginning of the season, Burgess has slowly but surely added more time to games where she continues to show signs of steady improvement against tough OVC opponents.
Cross acknowledged Burgess’ contribution in the Racers’ last road game against Tennessee Tech, where she finished with nine points, three assists and a steal.
“Erica Burgess gave us a big lift in the (Tennessee) Tech game in order to maintain our lead and provided a lot of energy defensively. She did a great job defending the ball. It was just a total team effort.”
The Racer offense is beginning to look more like it did when Burgess was averaging over 70 minutes per game, with a combination of Burgess and freshman guard Erika Sisk driving for layups, drawing fouls and putting up big numbers in the paint.
The shifting of focus on the offense makes a more cohesive style for Murray State, with more guards getting chances to score and put the Racers in a better position to win. While it seemed most of the scoring was done by one guard in the past two weeks of conference play, more guards are actually making stats.
Burgess also tried her hand beyond the arc in her performance against Austin Peay, where she sank a 3-point shot to dig the Racers out of an eight point deficit midway into the first half.
Cross said he is confident in Burgess’ contributions for the team and knows she is more than willing to help the team effort both offensively and defensively.
“I don’t know how many minutes she’ll get,” Cross said. “The one thing we do expect is for her to go out and do her best. I think she’s back in her rhythm now. She was out for a week of practice, too, so not just games. You have to get back in the flow.”
Story by Carly Besser, Staff writer.