ShareThis Page

Hempfield grad Michelle Burns heating up for Point Park basketball

| Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, 8:36 p.m.
Hempfield graduate Michelle Burns is averaging 12.9 points and 3.5 assists for Point Park.
Point Park Athletics
Hempfield graduate Michelle Burns is averaging 12.9 points and 3.5 assists for Point Park.

When Point Park's Michelle Burns opened her freshman season by missing 25 of her first 30 shots, Tony Grenek could have shared numerous coaching nuggets gleaned from 17 years of experience.

He chose a different tactic with his 5-foot-4 point guard from Hempfield.

“I never said one word to her as far as, ‘Hey, you're shooting too many 3s,' or ‘Hey, try to do this,' ” Grenek said. “The one thing I never wanted to do was to tame her. I think she's too good of a player, and I knew the shots were going to start falling eventually.”

Sure enough, they did. Burns shook off the early slump and has emerged as one of the top first-year players in the River States Conference. She is averaging 12.9 points and 3.5 assists — seventh in the league — and has bumped her shooting percentage up to 37.4. Burns leads the Pioneers (15-9, 10-4) with 29.3 minutes per game heading into Tuesday's game with No. 21 Rio Grande (26-2, 14-1).

“It definitely takes a toll on you at the beginning,” Burns said of her struggles. “You're like, ‘Am I even a shooter anymore?' ”

Burns said deep down, she knew the answer was yes. So she stayed after practice putting up extra shots, and the results started to come.

On Dec. 9 against Indiana-Kokomo, Burns scored a season-high 27 points on 11-for-20 shooting, including 5 for 7 on 3-pointers. She has been steady since.

It shouldn't be a surprise that Burns responded to a little adversity. After all, she grew up as the youngest of three sports-loving sisters, and things often got competitive. Mary, the oldest, played lacrosse at Wheeling Jesuit and graduated last year. Monica, Hempfield's all-time leading scorer in basketball and a former Tribune-Review Player of the Year, is a redshirt junior at Wheeling Jesuit who holds the NCAA record for consecutive free throws made with 118. Monica and Michelle played together on the 2013-14 Hempfield team that reached the WPIAL Class 4A final.

“They've shaped me into the player I am today and the person overall,” Michelle said. “They were pretty hard on me, but if they weren't, I wouldn't be the player I am. They were who I looked up to.”

Burns said the three also had a friendly rivalry when it came to grades, softball and running, but basketball came first. One-on-one games remain common, and Michelle said her record is respectable.

“They're definitely stronger than me, but I'm getting there,” she said. “I've gotten a few wins in before. They might not admit that, but I definitely have.”

Burns had an offer to join Monica at Wheeling Jesuit and seriously considered it but said she wanted to “start my own path.”

It's been a good match. Point Park has won six of its past seven games, and Burns is averaging 15 points during that stretch. The surge coincided with Grenek upping the tempo and letting the players' instincts take over.

“She's an excellent ball handler,” Grenek said of Burns. “She's an excellent passer when people are up ahead, and she's able to get our fastbreak going.”

And if another shooting slump comes along, Grenek isn't worried.

“She's got the mentality you want your point guard to have,” he said. “When things are going bad, and she's not playing well, she's able to shrug it off and not let it linger.”

Jeff Vella is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jvella@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JeffVella_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me