A meet and greet was held at Union County High School on Friday to allow students and parents to meet the school’s new head varsity girls basketball coach — Angela Burke.
Growing up in Willingboro, NJ — a suburb of Philadelphia — Burke fell in love with the game of basketball. After high school, she went to school for two years at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte and eventually transferred to Clemson University, where she earned a B.S. in electrical engineering and an M.S.S. in sports management. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in sports management.
Burke enjoyed living in South Carolina so much during her days at Clemson, she said she wanted to make it her permanent home. She became an assistant girls basketball coach at Westside High School in Anderson in 2001, where she stayed until recently signing with Union County High School. She said she felt it was time for her to step up and become a head coach.
“I worked closely with Coach Jackie Roberts at Westside,” Burke said. “I went to coaching clinics with her and went to camps with her. I went to camps with the basketball team. I really got a feel for what the head coach is required to do.”
Burke said she decided on coming to Union because she felt comfortable during her interview with Principal Floyd Lyles and Interim Athletic Director Will Hickson.
“I was really impressed with their philosophy of what they wanted out of the school,” Burke said, explaining that academics are a top priority for her. “‘Student athlete’ means just what it says. You’re a student first, then an athlete.”
Burke expressed the same feeling to the young basketball players who attended Friday’s meet and greet. She told them that they would need to put forth an effort away from school for both academics and athletics.
“My philosophy on playing the game — the will to win is not nearly as important as being PREPARED to win,” Burke said.
Burke gave the students handouts regarding off-season workouts, schedules and a nutritional guide. She stressed the importance of staying hydrated, especially during summer months. She also went over various drills she expects the students to work on, including circle drills, ball handling, dribbling, driving, shooting, etc.
“The more you keep a ball in your hands, the better you’ll get,” Burke told the girls.
She also mentioned the importance of punctuality, using the example of their upcoming practice at noon on Monday.
“When we have a 12:00 practice, I’ll be here at 11:30,” she said. “When 12 hits, I don’t expect for girls to walk in at 12. I expect to be ready to go at 12. Walking in at 12 is late.”
She also explained that they would need to set goals for each practice.
“I’m big on defense, and I’m big on fast breaks and running up and down the court,” Burke said. “I’m big on staying in shape.”
Burke said she will be looking for improvement in her team members, and she offered an example of a player she coached who showed considerable improvement after just one weekend. Burke said she recruited a volleyball player to play basketball. She said the girl was tall and a post player who would be getting rebounds and getting fouled. She was having trouble, however, from the free throw line.
“I mean this girl was banging shots off the backboard,” Burke said. “But she asked me for drills to get better at free throws. The next Monday, I was amazed.”
Burke explained that the student had worked on the drills all weekend because she wanted to get better. Burke said the child’s parent brought her to practice and reported that all she had done the previous weekend was work on her free throws.
“Now that is improvement,” Burke said.
Burke will also teach math at UCHS, and she pointed out the advantages her players will have.
“You have a math teacher as a head coach, which means you have a free tutor,” she said. “Take advantage of that.”
As the players left for the day, Burke mentioned that she is seriously considering hosting an upcoming scrimmage against Spartanburg to try and challenge her team.
Her game plan: keep it up-tempo.
“I heard we are going to have a small team (relating to height),” Burke said. “I’ve coached small teams, and I love quickness. When you have small girls, it’s an up-tempo game and I love games that are up-tempo. I don’t like to slow down. That’s why I told them to drink a lot of water!”
“Defensively, I think we will be able to hold a lot of teams with that speed and quickness,” she added. “Sometimes that can make up for the lack of height in a lot of ways.”
Burke said she has heard great things about Union County from fellow teachers at Westside High and around Anderson as well — even at her dentist’s office. She said she looks forward to being in Union and building her team.
Burke has two daughters — Angela and Ashley — and her youngest daughter, Ashley, will be a freshman at Spartanburg Methodist College this fall, playing volleyball. Burke said she couldn’t be happier that she will be working in Union — not far from Spartanburg — so she will be able to attend more of Ashley’s games.
Watch for information regarding the varsity girls basketball team’s schedule as well as all local sports in upcoming editions of The Union Daily Times and at www.uniondailytimes.com.