Cierra Burdick running, just not on all cylinders yet

Saul Young/News Sentinel
Tennessee’s Cierra Burdick attempts to score while defended by Vanderbilt’s Morgan Batey at Thompson-Boling Arena on Sunday.

Photo by Saul Young, 2013 Knoxville News Sentinel

Saul Young/News Sentinel Tennessee’s Cierra Burdick attempts to score while defended by Vanderbilt’s Morgan Batey at Thompson-Boling Arena on Sunday.

Reality doesn’t hurt as much as before for Cierra Burdick.

The fractured metacarpal in her right hand has healed and she’s shed those nasty, uncomfortable casts.

She will start at forward for No. 11 Tennessee (20-5, 11-1 SEC) in an SEC women’s basketball game against Auburn (14-11, 3-9) at 7 tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena. The game will not be televised but can be viewed online at UTSports.com.

Burdick missed eight games in January. Her hand injury resulted from doing extra work on her defense with former UT men’s player Bobby Maze. She returned on Jan. 31 against Mississippi State and has logged five games in what essentially amounts to a second season.

But the sophomore forward is not yet back to her former playing form. She’s still recovering her dexterity and resetting the skills that enabled her to average 8.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game before the injury.

That part still stings.

“I want to come back 100 percent,” she said. “I want to be as strong as I was before I got hurt but I realize

that’s not reality.”

Burdick’s ongoing frustration contrasted with Wednesday’s injury-related occurrence. Isabelle Harrison, who underwent surgery on Feb. 1 to address the lateral meniscus in her left knee, took part in Tennessee’s practice. Although there was no official update on the sophomore center’s condition, her recovery appears to be accelerating.

In Harrison’s absence, Burdick has been moonlighting at power forward. She’s familiar with the position from her playing days at Butler High in suburban Charlotte and USA Basketball. And she’s embraced one of its primary responsibilities: rebounding.

“I’ve been a lover of rebounding since I started playing the game,” she said. “I take pride in it. That is something I can do that doesn’t take much skill. That takes heart. Thankfully I can grab the ball with two hands now.”

Her devotion was displayed during a second-half possession last Sunday against Vanderbilt. She gathered three offensive rebounds in furious succession. Two of them, though, followed her missed putback shots. The end result of Burdick’s effort was her fourth foul, which sent her trudging to the bench with her shoulders slumped.

“There’s been a couple of sleepless nights, not totally sleepless but nights where I’ve stayed up thinking about it,” Burdick said of the ongoing process. “When you love the game so much and you just want to be so great, it’s tough.”

Sunday’s sequence reflected the state of Burdick’s play. Since returning, she’s averaging 5.8 rebounds per game, which isn’t far off her pre-injury average. But she’s scoring just five points per game and shooting 35.7 percent from the floor.

Burdick said that she’s recovered the range of motion in her right hand. She’s still working toward full strength and recouping reflexes.

UT assistant coach Dean Lockwood has assisted Burdick with about 10 minutes of extra shooting after virtually every practice. He described her as a perfectionist, who’s prone to being impatient.

“You definitely want to be aware of it, reach out and do anything you can to help,” Lockwood said of Burdick’s situation. “But we can’t spend a whole lot of time swimming backwards. We can throw the rope and keep bringing you in but the ship has to sail.”

As she reels in her game, Burdick said that she’s received support from Lady Vols fans via social media. She’s expressed her aspirations on Twitter as a means of self-motivation.

“Hoping that it’s all for the good,” she said. “That’s what you have to believe and have faith in.”

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Comments » 14

Theo writes:

Love this kid. IMO the leader for the next two years. Super smart, super motivated. After her LV playing days, keep on eye on this one. She will continue to make us proud.

voloffaith writes:

in response to Theo:

Love this kid. IMO the leader for the next two years. Super smart, super motivated. After her LV playing days, keep on eye on this one. She will continue to make us proud.

Once again an astute observation young mister Huxtable........she has what I call humble moxie....

ps11824 writes:

Good news about Burdick, however, I'm distracted by the photo of Geno patting Kim Mulkey on her bottom as his entourage of laughing female assistants follow. That's a disturbing visual, IMO.

SummittsCourt writes:

Good for her and good for the Lady Vols. I also am encouraged by Isabelle Harrison's progress. If she is able to come back by postseason time that will give the Lady Vols a big boost in the front court.

underthehill writes:

Burdick does far more on the court than just what the stat sheet reflects..few players have the basketball IQ Burdick has..reminds me of men's player Tobias Harris..

underthehill writes:

in response to ps11824:

Good news about Burdick, however, I'm distracted by the photo of Geno patting Kim Mulkey on her bottom as his entourage of laughing female assistants follow. That's a disturbing visual, IMO.

How can I get distracted by the photo of Geno patting Kim Mulkey on her bottom..I missed that one..

underthehill writes:

in response to mountainViews:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I didn't see it..quick tell me how to..I can't wait..

KennyGVolsFan writes:

I am glad for her! However, I am stunned more of you aren't excited about the fact that Harrison is back on the floor practicing!!! I am so excited!

We really need her height and I know she isn't going to be in the same shape she was before the injury but her presence in the post should help!!!

Geno is a dirty old man!! He is in the process of being sued for sexual harrassment. This adds to the fire!! It's sad that his staff laughed about it knowing the current situation.

Theo writes:

in response to ps11824:

Good news about Burdick, however, I'm distracted by the photo of Geno patting Kim Mulkey on her bottom as his entourage of laughing female assistants follow. That's a disturbing visual, IMO.

Saw it, kind of creepy really. Pity Kim Mulkey didn't deck him. Think she could.

madrigal writes:

in response to Theo:

Saw it, kind of creepy really. Pity Kim Mulkey didn't deck him. Think she could.

She could have stomped on him with those boots!

johnlg00 writes:

Great news about Izzy, for sure! If she can get back on the floor in the next week or two, she should be just about hitting her stride by the time the NCAAs roll around. She should be rested and re-energized for the stretch run.

I continue to be impressed by the dedication and versatility of Cierra. Here in NC, people think she hung the moon. Her HS team won the state championship her sophomore and junior years. They narrowly lost in the finals her senior year, but she had a triple-double in that game. Her leadership will become more and more apparent as her UT career continues. Combined with Bashaara's competitiveness, the two of them should be the force behind a major surge in LV fortunes for the next couple of years after this one.

Volinflan writes:

in response to KennyGVolsFan:

I am glad for her! However, I am stunned more of you aren't excited about the fact that Harrison is back on the floor practicing!!! I am so excited!

We really need her height and I know she isn't going to be in the same shape she was before the injury but her presence in the post should help!!!

Geno is a dirty old man!! He is in the process of being sued for sexual harrassment. This adds to the fire!! It's sad that his staff laughed about it knowing the current situation.

Oh we have been watching. Carefully. It just was that the article was about Burdick and since she's also coming back, didn't want to play down the importance of that. With Cierra and Izzy back on the court we are a threat. Well we're a threat without them, but a bigger (pun) threat with them. Really looking forward to watching the game on the 14 inch computer screen.

Volinflan writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Great news about Izzy, for sure! If she can get back on the floor in the next week or two, she should be just about hitting her stride by the time the NCAAs roll around. She should be rested and re-energized for the stretch run.

I continue to be impressed by the dedication and versatility of Cierra. Here in NC, people think she hung the moon. Her HS team won the state championship her sophomore and junior years. They narrowly lost in the finals her senior year, but she had a triple-double in that game. Her leadership will become more and more apparent as her UT career continues. Combined with Bashaara's competitiveness, the two of them should be the force behind a major surge in LV fortunes for the next couple of years after this one.

Johnig - while you guys are hanging the moon, just go down there and make sure that J. White follows Burdick to Knoxville. By the way NCAA, I am not related to anything or anybody related to recruiting.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Volinflan:

Johnig - while you guys are hanging the moon, just go down there and make sure that J. White follows Burdick to Knoxville. By the way NCAA, I am not related to anything or anybody related to recruiting.

Actually, I grew up in K'ville from a sixth-generation Tennessee family, so I don't really consider myself a North Carolinian. I don't pay that much attention to NC HS ball, but Cierra got an enormous amount of publicity in the Greensboro media even though she is from the Charlotte area. I'm afraid I don't know anything about the player you mentioned, but now that that the state playoffs are under way, I will look for her name.

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