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Injury delays SJU forward from pro summer leagues

Photo by Robert Cole
By Joseph Staszewski

Justin Burrell’s NBA aspirations will have to wait.

A high ankle sprain injury kept the former St. John’s University star from participating in this year’s NBA Summer League despite potential workouts with the Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers. Burrell, who just finished his second season overseas, hurt the ankle the day he returned from France back in June. The 6-foot-8 forward, who played with the Golden State Warriors in the 2012 Summer League, had high hopes.

“I thought this was going to be my year,” he said. “It didn’t happen. So maybe next year.”

Burrell, who plays for The Franchise/Sean Bell at the Nike Pro City unlimited league at Baruch College, still hasn’t recovered fully. He is known for being a power dunker. He said he is still having trouble jumping and didn’t think he was going to be able to dunk on one attempt last Thursday night in a win over the Uptowners.

“I was super disappointed,” Burrell said. “I thought it wasn’t going to be this long, but I did realize how severe [the injury] was.”

Despite the setback, Burrell is building a résumé of success and production as a pro. He was the Most Valuable Player in the Japanese Professional League with the Yokohama B-Corsairs two years ago. 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.

This past season marked a step up in competition and his first in Europe with Chalons-Reims. Burrell excelled again. He averaged 16.5 points per game and 7.3 rebounds to help lead his team to a 23-11 record and spot in the championship game of the second division of the French league. Burrell, who was the Big East Sixth Man of the Year in his final season at St. John’s, thinks he is establishing himself as a winning player.

“It’s all about your résumé,” he said. “The NBA and all that stuff is about what you could possibly do. In Europe it’s about what you have done. The more you do, the better position you will be in.”

Franchise/Sean Bell Coach Rah Wiggins believes Burrell is in a good place right now. He has added a midrange jumper to his game. He is a high-energy guy and a strong rebounder who can finish around the rim. It’s that motor that could eventually earn him a chance to play in the NBA.

“All he has to do is out-work everybody,” Wiggins said. “Don’t worry about scoring. Everybody can score in the NBA. So do something that people don’t want to do like rebound.”

One thing Burrell wants to do is to keep challenging himself and keep trying to play better competition. He said he has a number of opportunities available overseas. Those around him are pulling for him to eventually sign with an NBA team and hope it is meant to be down the road.

“For him to come so close and get injured, it just means he has to stay strong and don’t let it be a setback for him,” Wiggins said. “God has a plan for everybody. If it’s meant to be, it’s going to happen.”

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