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Trojans' Burris signs with Cincinnati Christian basketball

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New Castle High School senior Blake Burris recently signed a letter of intent to play men’s college basketball for Cincinnati Christian University starting this coming 2019-20 season. In the front row, left to right, are sister Sidney Burris, mother Lisa Burris, Blake Burris, and father Steve Burris. In the back row, left to right, are former NCHS boys basketball Assistant Coach Matt Lacy and NCHS boys varsity basketball Head Coach Daniel Cox.
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In his final game in the Fieldhouse, New Castle senior Blake Burris (5) is guarded by Delta senior Tyler Wilburn (10) during the championship game of boys basketball Class 3A Sectional 24 on March 2. Burris gets a chance to continue playing basketball, as he recently inked a letter of intent to play men’s basketball for Cincinnati Christian University starting this upcoming 2019-20 season.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

One nice thing about playing a high school sport for a winning team is that it opens up opportunities for an athlete to play that sport at the next level.

That is what has happened for New Castle High School senior Blake Burris, who recently signed a letter of intent to play men’s college basketball for Cincinnati Christian University starting in the upcoming 2019-20 season.

“I had talked to another college, but nothing much came of it,” Burris said. “But about a month and a half after our season ended, I got an e-mail and a phone call from their (CC) coach inviting me down for a visit. I fell in love with the campus and the city, the coaching staff and players are good guys, and they they made me an offer. It just felt like the right fit for me. The previous coach left, and the new coach there now is the one I’ve had the most contact with.”

Cincinnati Christian is an NAIA school located in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. It is a member of the River States Conference and plays schools located within a reasonable driving distance from New Castle. Despite its size of around 1,400 students, it plays a wide variety of sports.

“I love Cincinnati and their campus is right downtown,” Burris remarked. “I’ll be only a couple of miles from Great American Ballpark and I’m a huge Reds fan, so I plan to be down there a lot. I’m also a huge Steelers fan and plan to see them play the Bengals when they come to town, but I’ll never turn into a Bengals fan.”

Burris talked a little about the Eagles’ basketball program.

“They’ve had success,” Burris stated. “This past season, they were around .500 and in contention for the postseason tournament, but their top player got injured. They’ll have eight or nine guys returning this coming season, and they look to do better and get to the postseason.”

Burris talked a bit about what he thought his role as a freshman on the team might be.

“From conversations I’ve had with the coach, he sees me as a point guard,” Burris noted. “Their returning point guard will be a senior, so I may take over for him my sophomore through senior years. When I get in the games as a freshman, they want me to take good shots, distribute the ball, and play good defense.”

Burris knows he’s going to college for more reasons other than to play basketball and attend Reds baseball games, and appears to have his future pretty well mapped out.

“I plan to major in communications and perhaps minor in sports management,” Burris said. “My goal is to become a play-by-play announcer for college or professional games. I’ve been in the vocational broadcasting program at Knightstown the past two years, and I really like the idea of becoming a play-by-play announcer.”

This writer thinks that’s an ideal job for Burris, as Burris has been a good interview after games and always has something to say. Dead air time on a radio broadcast is not desired.

New Castle boys varsity basketball Head Coach Daniel Cox believes Burris has found a good fit for the next four years.

“Making that jump from high school to college always is somewhat difficult,” Cox says. “The game is faster and more physical and the players are much better at the collegiate level. But Blake is a cerebral kid, cool and confident, and understands the game of basketball very well after playing it and watching it for a long time. I believe he’ll do a good job down at Cincinnati Christian.”

Cox talked about the career Burris had as a Trojan basketball player.

“I’ve watched or coached Blake the past six years,” Cox remarked. “He did a good job when he came into the game as a junior when we made that run to the semi-state, and stepped up for us as a starter as a senior. With Mason Gillis out for the season, we needed everyone to step it up a bit in the role they played. Blake shit some big shots for us, grabbed more than three rebounds a game, and dished the ball to others for baskets. He’s one reason we were as successful as we were.”

Cox is familiar with small-college basketball, as he played at Taylor University.

“Basketball is basketball and a lot of guys play it,” Cox noted. “A lot of attention is paid to Division I, but good basketball is played at the lower levels like Division III and the NAIA. Some really good players prefer going to the smaller colleges because they feel it’s a better fit for them. Sometimes, you’ll play in front of 40 or 50 people, and other nights you’ll play in front of crowds of a thousand fans or more. You’re not there just playing basketball, but you’re able to build relationships that last a lifetime and can help you out further down the road. I’m excited for Blake because he has that opportunity. He’ll be successful in whatever he chooses to do.”

Basketball has been the sport of focus for Burris during his high school career, although he did turn out for golf his senior year and played in some junior varsity matches.

Burris got his feet wet in varsity basketball as a sophomore during the Trojans’ 17-7 season of 2016-17. Burris appeared in seven games and didn’t score, but he did pull down four rebounds and recorded an assist.

Burris played a much bigger role on the varsity during his junior year of 2017-18 when New Castle went 27-3, won the Hoosier Conference title with a perfect 7-0 record, won the Raymond James Hall of Fame Classic plus Class 3A sectional and regional titles, and was ranked No. 1 in Class 3A.

Playing in all 30 games, Burris scored 114 points for a 3.8 ppg average, shot 50 percent from the field (45 percent from three-point range and 60 percent within the arc), and 68 percent from the free throw line. He also averaged 1.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.

As a senior during the 2018-19 campaign, Burris’ role expanded even further for a 13-11 Trojan team. He appeared in all 24 games as a starter, scored 172 points for a 7.2 ppg average, shot 41 percent from the field (35 percent on three-pointers and 51 percent from two-point range), and was one of the area’s most accurate players form the charity stripe at 75 percent.

Burris also played a much bigger role in areas other than scoring points, as he averaged 3.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 0.5 steals per game.

Burris has had to adjust his schedule since he inked the commitment to Cincinnati Christian.

“After this season ended, I just kind of stopped doing basketball things,” Burris said. “But now since I know I’m going to play in college, I’ve gotten back into the routine of running, lifting, shooting, and other things I need to do to become a better basketball player. Getting stronger for the college game and working on playing better defense are what I’ll need to improve on.”

Burris is looking forward to moving to the Queen City as his next step.

“I’ll be only an hour and a half from home, we’ll play some games in Indiana that I hope fans around here will come and see, and I’ll be back in the Fieldhouse watching the Trojans play on a lot of Friday nights,” Burris added. “But I’m really looking forward to this next chapter in my life.”