Never forget where you came from, Burke tells athletes

·3 min read

Jun. 23—SCRANTON — Former Abington Heights and University of Lousiville star basketball player Becky Burke returned home Wednesday night, and her keynote message was simple to the athletes, their families and coaches at the 72nd annual Times-Tribune Athlete of the Week awards ceremony.

Be proud of where you come from, and don't settle for anything less than the very best.

"It wasn't playing in front of 10,000 fans that was my biggest thrill," Burke, who was named the University of Buffalo women's basketball coach two months ago, told those gathered in the auditorium of the Scranton Times Building. "It's when I was introduced: At guard, a 5-11 freshman, from Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania..."

Burke was the Pennsylvania Class 4A Player of the Year in 2008, an award she might not have won if she didn't have an overriding drive to succeed and belief in herself.

"What about the girls from Pittsburgh? What about the girls from Philadelphia?" Burke recalled people asking. "Well, what about the girl from little Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania?

"Be proud of the area you come from."

Burke scored 2,162 points in a high school career in which she was named to the Times-Tribune All-Region team four times, just the second girl at the time to achieve the honor.

She also was the Times-Tribune Player of the Year three times, as well as a two-time, all-state selection.

That wouldn't have been possible if she settled for being the best in the area, Burke told the athletes. She told them to believe in themselves.

"Don't settle for being just the best in the Lackawanna League, or the best in Northeast Pennsylvania," Burke said. "Be the best in the country."

She epitomized that, moving on from Abington Heights to become a four-year starter at the University of Louisville, scoring 1,580 points while leading the team in scoring in her sophomore season.

Burke also played in the Division I women's Final Four twice, including a trip to the national championship game.

After her distinguished playing career, Burke went on to a coaching career that started at Cal State Fullerton in 2013, and by 2015 had her first full-time coaching job, starting the program from scratch at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, where she had a winning record the first season and won 21 games in her second season.

Beckoned to coach at Division II's University of Charleston (W. Va.), she went 48-14 before earning her break at Division I, named the head coach at South Carolina Upstate in 2020, transforming an eight-win program her first year to a 22-win squad and Big South Coach of the Year honors.

Shortly after Upstate's season ended, Buffalo came calling, the latest stop in a still-budding career.

"It was the long nights and early mornings at Riverfront Sports that made me who I was," Burke said.

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