Burgess learning the game, earning play time

The+Appalachian+Online

The Appalachian Online

The Appalachian

In basketball, the success of a team’s point guard often directly affects the success of the team as a whole because it is the point-guard’s duty to direct the game for teammates and execute the game plan.

This season, much of the success App State’s men’s basketball team has had has been a result of the outstanding play of junior point guard Chris Burgess.

In his third season, Burgess has improved in almost every statistical category: minutes played, 3-point shooting percentage, rebounds per game, assists per game, points per game and field goals made.

Burgess has scored double-digit points in 10 games this season, reaching two 20-point scoring games, including a 24-point performance, in which he made five 3-pointers, Feb. 12 against Arkansas-Little Rock – both career highs.

He also set a career high in assists in a single game against Troy in February, dishing out eight assists in a Mountaineer victory. This was his highest output since Dec. 30, 2012 against Milligan College, in which he had seven assists.

But to Burgess, this success is no surprise. He’s been working relentlessly to improve since the season ended last year, he said.

He also acknowledged the hand the coaching staff has played in his success this season.

“They have really risen my level of play this year,” Burgess said. “How I see the game, how I play. It’s a lot different than I have before. I see things a lot differently and that has really helped me.”

When practice began again this season, the players were told that every starting spot was available to be earned in head coach Jim Fox’s first year at the helm.

Burgess took the challenge from the coaching staff very seriously and worked hard to earn his play time, which has resulted in 29.6 minutes per game this season.

“I really came out every day and every practice trying to work hard, and trying to lead by example,” Burgess said. “So [for] all my minutes I’ve got so far, I’m blessed, but it’s from hard work.”

Fox said Burgess’ commitment to being a student of the game has led to his increased production this season.

“Chris works extremely hard,” Fox said. “He’s very coachable. He really understands the game. Because he does that, you can see constant improvement throughout the year.”

Fellow junior guard and roommate Frank Eaves has seen Burgess’ work ethic first hand.

Burgess is always ushering the two to the gym to work out, he said.

Eaves also said it is Burgess’ “pit-bull mentality” that makes him so dangerous on the court.

“When he has the ball, he’s a smaller guard, but he’s real strong and he doesn’t let people take it away from him,” Eaves said.

As his roommate, Eaves said the maturation process of Burgess has been fun to watch.

“His progress over these last three years has been amazing,” Eaves said. “He’s gotten better each and every year. He takes no steps back. His IQ of the game goes up, and his productivity continues to go up.”

Burgess and the Mountaineers look to make it two-straight wins when they take on Texas State on Thursday in Boone. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. It is App State’s second-to-last game of the season.

Story: Chris Warner, Sports Reporter