Friday, March 25, 2011

Butler's Burdick repeats as N.C. girls AP player of the year

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Cierra Burdick entered the season as a nationally touted recruit coming off a state championship and the target of opposing defenses. She ended her career at Matthews Butler short of another title, yet standing once again as the top player in the state.

Burdick has been named The Associated Press 2010-11 women's prep basketball player of the year for North Carolina, earning nine of 13 votes from sports writers across the state in results released Friday.

Kernersville McGuinness' Megan Buckland was second with two votes after helping her team win a sixth straight state championship.

Burdick – who has signed with Tennessee – shared the award with Gastonia Forestview's Shannon Smith as a junior, then became only the third player since 1995 to win the honor twice. She joined Eden Morehead's Amy Simpson (1998, 1999) as the only players to win the award in consecutive years during that span despite facing creative defenses focused on slowing her.

“I definitely saw a lot of box-and-ones and a lot of special defenses,” Burdick said. “In one of the playoff games, I had some girl's armpits in my face the whole game. … The pressure was there because I knew the ball was coming to my hands and my team was relying on me. To come out every night and play my hardest and give it my all is what I tried to do.”

The 6-foot-3 forward averaged 23 points, 15 rebounds, four steals, five assists and five blocks. The honors came steadily all season, as she repeated as the Gatorade player of the year in the state and was ranked as the nation's No. 3 recruit by ESPN. She'll also play in next week's McDonald's All-America game in Chicago.
Butler coach Mark Sanders said Burdick has never stopped working to improve her game, which trickled down to the rest of the team as well.

“She totally committed herself to getting better,” Sanders said. “Last year we had seniors and she didn't have to be a leader so much. This year, she led by example. The kids saw her putting in the extra time and effort, and some of those kids got on board and started doing extra stuff after school or during the summer.

“When your best player is there in the summer putting in extra time, it's not hard for your other players to be in the gym and putting in work also.”