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Bainbridge's Burke already turning heads at Illinois as freshman starter

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- It didn't take Bainbridge's Alexis Burke long to make a name for herself at the University of Illinois.

Burke, who was The Herald's Co-Player of the Year in girls basketball last season along with Randolph-Clay's Destiny Mitchell (a freshman at East Tennessee State), was named the Big Ten Conference's Co-Freshman of the Week on Friday.

"It feels great. It's an honor,'' said Burke when reached by cell phone Friday by The Herald. Burke's averaging 14.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in four games for the Fighting Illini.

"It's been a big transition going from high school to college,'' she said. "In high school I didn't feel like there was anyone on my level, but in college everyone is on my level. I knew I would have to work harder, and I have. It started in the summer, getting ready for the season.''

Burke has always been a workaholic on the court, her dedication going hand-in-hand with her talent. She is a starting small forward at Illinois after playing just about everywhere on the court at Bainbridge, where she was a threat from 3-point range and an inside force.

Some things just don't change. Burke scored 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting and had four rebounds in a 104-63 win against Cal Poly on Monday, and then scored 18 points and grabbed six rebounds in a 69-48 win against Long Beach State on Friday. She scored 18 points, hitting 4-of-6 3-pointers, and was named to the All-Tournament Team in the Waikiki Beach Marriott Rainbow Wahine Showdown.

It's just a beginning for Burke, who says she feels right at home in the college game.

"The college game is different,'' she said. "It's so much faster, but I feel like I fit in on the court. I feel like a freshman in the classroom, but when I'm on the basketball court, I just feel like I'm another player.''

Burke, who shared the Big Ten Freshman of the Week award with Penn State's Maggie Lucus, added she feels this could be the start of a big season.

"I sat down with my coach earlier and set some goals for myself this season,'' Burke said. "One of those goals is to be an all-conference player at the end of the year. That's one of the goals I'm working for. It's a big transition, but it's getting easier.''

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SPEAKING OF MITCHELL:

Burke's counterpart Mitchell is lighting up the court herself at ESTU, averaging 11 points a game through five contests thus far, including her career high of 16, which came in the team's season-opening win against Chattanooga.

Mitchell is shooting 50 percent so far as a starting guard/forward for the Lady Buccaneers.