By Joseph Staszewski
For Justin Burrell, his first professional basketball season was not about himself despite his personal success on the court.
The former St. John’s University standout earned Most Valuable Player honors in the Japanese Professional League with the Yokohama B-Corsairs. He led the club to a 31-21 record by averaging a double double of 18 points and 10 rebounds per contest. Yokohama reached the league’s semifinals as an expansion club.
“It was more impressive for us as a team,” Burrell said. “Making the final four, that was better for us.”
He described his venture overseas as a humbling and eye-opening experience, a chance to see the rest of the world. When Burrell returned to the States, he received an invite to play with the Golden State Warriors summer league team in Las Vegas. The 6-foot-8, 244-pound forward put forth a strong showing, averaging 6.2 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per contest. His play earned him a training camp invitation, but he may not attend if it doesn’t look like the Warriors have a spot for him on their roster.
“The summer league is a great experience,” said Burrell, the Big East’s Sixth Man of the Year as a senior. “It’s great competing against pro athletes.”
The rest of the summer has been spent back on the New York City streetball circuit playing in leagues like Nike Pro City with defending champion The Franchise. He played in the Malone Mulhall Benefit Game July 28 and electrified the crowd with a series of slams.
Burrell was also selected to be a member of Team Nike 2, the sports equipment companies’ second collection of streetball all-stars, that competes at Rivington Court on the East Side. The squad completed a doubleheader sweep of Team Harlem and Ooh-Way July 30, something Burrell felt the team needed.
“Justin did all the intangibles for us,” Team Nike 2 Coach Raheem “Rah” Wiggins said. “He did the dirty work.”
It was all part of a big year for Burrell and his former Red Storm teammates. Dwight Hardy won an MVP while leading Pistoria Basket to the finals of the Italian League Due (second division) and played with the Miami Heat NBA summer league team. Paris Horne was also on the Charlotte Bobcats summer league roster and Justin Brownlee was with the Knicks. D.J. Kennedy, who was signed late in the season by the Cleveland Cavaliers, was back with the Cavs this summer.
“It was definitely a good year for the 2011 class,” Burrell said.
He is one of the biggest reasons why.