‘Fearless’ Michelle Burns ‘steady’ presence for Point Park women’s basketball
When Point Park women’s basketball coach Tony Grenek starts talking about point guard Michelle Burns, there aren’t enough complimentary adjectives.
“So darn competitive.”
“Unbelievable student- athlete.”
Those describe Burns’ performance during Point Park’s 88-82 overtime win Jan. 17 against Brescia (Ky.). The Hempfield graduate was having one of her best games when, with time expiring in regulation and the Pioneers trailing by three points, Burns made a long 3-pointer to force overtime. Burns, a sophomore, finished with 31 points, making 7 of 7 3-pointers and all six of her free throws.
“If you look at teams in the NBA or WNBA, they have that one person you want taking that kind of shot,” Grenek said. “That’s the type of shot we needed to get to overtime, and that’s the person I want taking that shot at the end of the day. It’s a situation where you get the ball to your best player, and they create the shot.”
Making shots is something Burns does with regularity for Point Park, which finished the season with a 13-16 record and a third-place finish in the East Division of the NAIA Division II River States Conference.
Against Ashbury on Jan. 24, Burns made a school-record nine 3-pointers and scored a career-high 33 points. For the season, she averaged 14.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists and made a team-high 56 3-pointers. Those numbers eared her first-team all-conference honors as voted on by the league’s 13 coaches.
“I was pretty proud of how I played my freshman year, and, going into my sophomore season, I wanted to build off my freshman season,” Burns said. “I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I wanted to keep going and become more of a leader. I’m pretty satisfied with how it went.”
The only thing Burns, who played with a stress fracture in her right foot during her senior season at Hempfield, is upset about is how her season ended.
As she walked down the stairs to the locker room at halftime of Point Park’s home finale Feb 12 against IU East, tears filled her eyes. Grenek noticed and thought back to practice the day before, when Burns was complaining of hip pain.
“But she’s always fought through everything and, to be honest, that’s what I thought when this happened,” Grenek said.
Except it wasn’t hip pain.
Burns experienced “excruciating” pain in her left foot during warmups. She gutted out the first half and tried to get ready for the second half but was unable to play. A stress fracture kept Burns out of the final two-and-a-half games. Point Park beat IU East but lost its final two games, including a 77-60 loss to IU Kokomo in the quarterfinals of the RSC Tournament on Feb. 20.
“Missing the tournament was so tough. It killed me on the inside,” Burns said. “I wanted to go out and play more than anything, but me out there at 15 percent was not going to help my team out at all, especially if I was jogging back on defense. I tried my best to cheer everyone on.”
Burns — the younger sister of former Wheeling Jesuit lacrosse player Mary and former WJU basketball player Monica, who made an NCAA record 118 consecutive free throws — has orders to take it easy as her foot heals. Until then, the straight-A student will concentrate on her studies, and the economics and finance major was recently named to the Google Cloud Academic All-District Team, which encompasses 22 states.
Plus, she has plans for her junior season.
“I tend to favor my left hand, so once I can get out on the court again, I’m going to work more on my right hand,” Burns said. “I’m going to keep learning how to be a leader and help bring these girls together so we have a better season.”