Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

April 22, 2014

Fleming’s Burns lands at G’town

FLEMINGSBURG — About the only thing missing was Pharrell Williams’s hit song, “Happy,” playing in the background.

Tuesday was an absolutely joyous day for Fleming County senior guard Darion Burns. He signed to play basketball at Georgetown College, picking the Tigers over Lindsey Wilson College and the University of Pikeville.

“I just liked the college when I went up there to visit,” Burns said. “I have a chance to win (an NAIA) national championship with them. And, it’s close to home, so all my family can come and watch.”

Georgetown won the NAIA in 2013 and reached the quarterfinals this season.

For four years, Burns kept 16th Region teams up nights trying to find ways to contain him. One of Fleming County coach Mark Starns’s favorite memories was a summer game last year against Mason County.

“He stole an inbounds pass ... raised up and had one of the most awesome high school dunks I've ever seen,” Starns said.

It might now take you a couple cups of coffee and a second bowl of Corn Flakes to read Burns’s high school accomplishments.

Start with just over 17 points a game for his career — 20.2 as a freshman, 18 as a sophomore in 2011-12, 17.4 as a junior and this season's 12.5 points in 13 games. His 1,936 career total placed him second in school history behind senior teammate Troy Steward’s 1,999.

He was a major contributor to the Panthers’ two straight 16th Region and 61st District title teams. The postseason awards include: Eastern Kentucky Conference first team in 2013 and the Commissioner’s Award this year; The Independent’s All-Area squad and regional tournament Most Valuable Player trophy two seasons ago.

To top it off, here he’s put forth outstanding work in the classroom. He carries a 3.5 grade-point average and a state “College- and Career-Ready” designation. Fleming County principal Mark Leet said that means Burns has at least a 50-percent chance of at least a 3.0 GPA in college — which Burns acknowledged Tuesday by enthusiastically thrusting his right fist skyward.

But in an instant last June, Burns’s senior season — and possibly his collegiate career —were in doubt.

He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee at an elite players camp at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green on what he called a routine play — going for an offensive rebound of a teammate’s miss.

“The teammate shot it and missed it, and I went up for the offensive rebound, and I came down, and my knee just buckled,” Burns said last October. “I just landed awkward.”

Burns’s mother, Carmen Burns, was in the stands. She didn’t see the injury, but …

“I heard the scream,” she said Tuesday. “I didn't see (the play), but I knew it was his scream.”

The first time the bandages came off, Burns said last fall, “It was a little scary at first, but then I got used to it.”

Burns returned Feb. 7 in a 58-54 Fleming County win at Rowan County; he was the first player off the bench. The next night, in an 82-67 home victory over Ashland, he scored just six points, but he reminded people that he didn’t have to score to contribute.

With a little less than four minutes to go in the first quarter, Burns was right of the lane when he fired a cross-court pass to senior Austin Crisp on the left side, which Crisp turned into a 3-pointer.

“How about that?” Starns said after the Ashland win. “The most valuable player in the 16th Region last year, what a luxury to bring him off the bench, first man off the bench.”

Georgetown head coach Chris Briggs never guarantees playing time. He said Burns would compete with, among others, sophomore and former Rowan County star D.J. Townsend.

“We'll just see how practice goes,” Briggs said. “ … We pass, we get up and down the floor, we guard, we press a lot, we’re aggressive defensively.”

Despite the injury and the rehabilitation, Burns was always confident he’d play college basketball.

“It's all good,” he said.

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