Prep Basketball: Basketball has helped Danville's Alex Burnside's confidence
Danville senior Alex Burnside (35) says he's a more confident basketball player now than he was four years ago, but adds that basketball has also helped improve his daily confidence off the court as well. (Clay Jackson / January 14, 2013)
The Danville senior said he is both a more confident player and a more confident person as a result of his years on the court, and he said that has been the area in which he has improved most in his four years with the Admirals.
“My freshman year, I didn’t have a lot of confidence,” Burnside said. “That’s really helped me a lot.”
Burnside said he is not only more confident on the court, where he is the Admirals’ leading scorer this season, but also in other areas outside the gym, such as in the classroom.
“I’m usually picked out as the leader in groups and stuff,” he said.
Now that Burnside is a senior, his confidence has helped him stand out as a leader for the Admirals.
“I’m always a talkative person, but now I’m more of a leader this year,” he said. “I just kind of fell into that role.”
Burnside said he has always been a take-charge kind of person, and he asserted himself before the season when he asked coach Andrew Zaheri for the chance to be the team captain.
“I’d been working hard over the summer on my game, and me and him talked and I was like, ‘I want to be the captain this year,’” he said.
He said his teammates had no problem with that at all.
“I feel like we have confidence in all of our teammates. We’re a pretty close-knit team,” he said.
The 6-3 Burnside said he was also confident that he could learn a new position this season. He was more of a post player last year, but now he is playing away from the basket more frequently.
“I’m more of a guard this year, whereas last year I was more of a big man,” he said. “It wasn’t really that hard. ‘Coach Z’ tells me to do something, I’ll work hard to do it. It’s just a change, and I took it in stride.”
The change seems to be suiting Burnside just fine. He’s averaging 11.5 points per game, and he also ranks second on the team in rebounds with 3.8 per game.
“I’m better at attacking the rim now and realizing that I have a size advantage against most people who guard me,” he said. “I like playing outside, but ‘Coach Z’ still reminds me sometimes that I’ve got a big man in me.”
Burnside will lead Danville (5-11) into the 12th Region All “A” Classic this week, where the Admirals will try to earn a fifth consecutive trip to the statewide small-school tournament. They will play Monticello on Tuesday at Burgin, and a win in that game would put them in the regional final Friday against Burgin or Somerset.
“It’s kind of a keepsake for Danville if you win it,” he said. “We’ve won it four straight, I think, so it’s a goal for us.”
Burnside said his goal for his senior season is to “just win as many championships as we can, cut as many nets down as we can.” And he said even though the first half of the season wasn’t all that good as players tried to fit into new roles, there’s still time to reach that goal.
“We’re getting those roles down, and we just need to keep getting better and better,” he said. “It’s a new year, a new us, and we’ve just got to keep it up.”
Burnside made a decision to give up football and focus on basketball in middle school.
“I really didn’t like (football). I just played because my parents wanted me to, but I realized it was my decision,” he said. “I started playing AAU (basketball) in high school, so I just liked it a lot more.”
He said it wasn’t easy to walk away from football, particularly at a school like Danville that has such a legacy in football, and he said he has been asked plenty of times to come back to the gridiron.
“I hear it all the time. Coach (Sam) Harp, (assistant) coach (Vaughn) Little, they all tell me to come play, because I’m a big guy, I guess. But I just tell them, ‘No, I’m a basketball player,’” he said.
He said he has always been happy with his choice.
“I feel like I’ve made a great choice,” he said. “Playing in AAU, I’ve made a lot of friends, and it’s easier for me to be a leader out in public now. Basketball’s really brought out a lot of character traits in me.”
He said he is considering a career as a physical therapist — “so I can stay connected to the game” — but he also hopes to have the chance to continue to play in college, something that he said was only a dream four years ago but that now is a goal he is confident he can achieve.
“My senior year, I see it coming around and I see I’ve gotten better, and I just realize anything’s possible,” he said.