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Burrell’s role expanding for Bucs

Joe Avento • Updated Oct 16, 2017 at 6:59 PM

When East Tennessee State basketball coach Steve Forbes thinks about David Burrell’s passion for the game, he recalls a moment from his team’s run to the Southern Conference tournament championship last March.

During a timeout late in the championship game against UNC Greensboro, Forbes was drawing a play when Burrell intervened.

“David slapped my board out of my hand and said ‘All we really need is heart,’ ” Forbes said. “That’s the type of passion he brings to the game.

“He’s an impact player. He’s not afraid of the moment and he brings a lot of toughness to our team.”

Forbes’ board wasn’t the only thing Burrell slapped that day. The Bucs’ 6-foot-6 senior forward from Milwaukee also swatted away six UNCG shots, tying the tournament record, as the Bucs won 79-74 to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament.

“David was a key part of our success last year and he’ll be even a bigger part this year,” ETSU point guard Desonta Bradford said. “He brings us toughness and leadership.”

Burrell was a key player at times during his first season with the Bucs, and with the loss of practically the entire front court, he’ll be called upon to play a bigger role when the coming season opens next month.

“I’ve been excited for a long time, before practice even started,” Burrell said.

The Bucs lost 62 percent of their scoring and 59 percent of their rebounding to graduation from a team that went 27-8.

Burrell averaged 17 minutes a game last season and packed a lot of action into those 17 minutes. When the team needed a big 3-pointer, he would often drain one. When the crowd needed a boost, he’d break free for one of his emphatic dunks.

“He was a great team player for us last year,” Forbes said. “He was a major factor for us getting into the NCAA tournament.”

Burrell averaged 7.5 points and 3.2 rebounds a game last year. He joined the graduated A.J. Merriweather as the only players on the team to shoot better than 50 percent overall from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range.

“David’s a guy who just plays really, really hard every day,” Forbes said. “He has a lot of passion to play. He’s a very good offensive player. I would expect him to expand his offensive numbers this year.

“I’ve been hard on him about defensive rebounding. David’s got to shore that area up to be an all-league-level player, which I think he’s capable of being.”

Told that many junior-college transfers really blossom in their second year at their new school, Burrell smiled.

“That’s my plan,” he said. “It’s my last year, my last go-around. I’ll never get another senior year.”

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