Beginning from scratch

Deanna Stevens

Junior guard Sarah Burgess is playing in her first season at Kent State. A transfer from South Carolina, Burgess was added to the Flashes’ roster last season, but was unable to play due to NCAA transfer rules. STEPHANIE J. SMITH | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

For the Kent State women’s basketball team junior guard Sarah Burgess, home is where her heart is.

Burgess, a South Carolina transfer, gave up sunny weather and celebrity status to return to her roots and help lead the Flashes in the Mid-American Conference.

Burgess transferred to Kent State in the middle of last season, but because of NCAA rules, she was not allowed to play with the team until she sat out two full semesters. She has been practicing and weightlifting with the Flashes since she first transferred last year.

“It was so hard,” Burgess said, “when you’re working so hard every day in practice, and you can’t show that on the court.”

Not having the opportunity to show her skills wasn’t the only thing that was difficult for

Burgess.

“Coach said it was going to take me about five games to get back (into game mode),” Burgess said. “I didn’t think it would be so difficult to come back after a year. Game speed and game tempo is so different.”

Burgess said her debut with the Flashes against Radford was an anxious one. She finished the game with two points in 20 minutes.

“The coaches said I was nervous,” Burgess said, “but I was more anxious than anything.”

Getting used to a new school, new teammates and new coaches were also some challenging aspects of the transfer, she said. One thing in particular was molding to Kent State coach Bob Lindsay’s motivational tactics.

“He’s a very challenging coach,” Burgess said. “He pushes you to a level mentally that you don’t think that you could reach.”

And right now, Lindsay is challenging Burgess to add more variety to her game.

“She has the mentality of a shooter,” Lindsay said. “The challenge is getting her to focus on other aspects she needs improved.”

Lindsay’s success with the Flashes was one thing that brought Burgess to Kent State. But the Regina High School graduate said the major factor in transferring to Kent State was coming back to her hometown in Brookpark, Ohio, to be close to her family.

Having the chance to have her family’s support was very important to her. She said her family is at every home game, as well as some away games.

Leaving home was difficult, but South Carolina was able to lure Burgess away for a year, at least.

“They were a program that was up and coming,” Burgess said. “The year I signed they went to the Elite Eight. And they played in the Southeastern Conference, which is probably the best conference in women’s basketball. And I saw that as challenging.”

Lindsay said Burgess’s time in the SEC has made an impact on the team.

“She had the benefit of playing in probably the best league of women’s basketball in the SEC,” Lindsay said. “At that level, coaches get fired for wins and losses, and they expect their players to come out and play hard every night. She brought that mentality to the team, which is something we really needed.”

And Burgess said she hopes that her mental toughness has a positive impact to the team. She said being a leader vocally, as well as by example, is something that she brings to the Flashes.

“There was no professional sports team near the town I was in,” Burgess said, “So we were like the pro team. Everyone knew who you were. Little girls would come up to you in Wal-Mart and ask you for an autograph.”

Although she may not be getting autograph requests, she has made a team full of friends with the rest of the Flashes.

“Off the court we choose to be friends,” Burgess said. “We have a team chemistry off the court, which is big because I think, without chemistry off the court, you can’t have a team chemistry on the court.”

Contact women’s basketball reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected]