Jason Burnell(Sassari) Defied All Odds Going From JUCO And Being Told He Can´t Play Division 1 To The Italian Serie A

One thing that Jason Burnell can´t complain about is not having been near water in his life. Some people like the mountains, other people the big city life or even being in the middle of nowhere in Iowa. The American is a native of Florida and grew up in beautiful Jacksonville and went to school there as well as in St Petersburg. Ás a rookie overseas, he played in in the small city of Cantu, which was 2 and a half hours from the Mediterranean sea, but at least he could visit the historical Milan any day as he was only a half hour drive away. But he is never really far away from water as in his second professional season, he stayed loyal to Italy and signed with Banco di Sardegna Sassari. You can´t miss playing in Italy with all the beautiful cities and he found another great place to play at as he is living on the pretty island of Sardinia which is known for it´s sea, beaches, Folklore and Donkeys. He isn´t directly on the water, but about 10 minutes away from paradise something he can witness every day between practices. He definitely has enjoyed and cherished being able to experience the beauty of the island. “The nicest thing about living in Sardinia is the peace it brings. Being a Florida boy I’ve always found peace being close to water and Sardinia brings me that same peace“, stressed Jason Burnell. But not only water is big in his life, but also basketball the game that he loves. He like hundreds of so many other guys that are grinding overseas, and he has had a steep journey getting to where he is today. One could call it like a Cinderella story as he defied all odds going from JUCO and being told that he can´t play division one to the Serie A in Italy.

            Jason Burnell was born on August 15th, 1997 in Deland, Florida. He grew up in Deland and went to Deland high school. As a junior he averaged 22ppg and 10rpg and was named player of the year. He finished his senior year at Providence School. He then decided to attend Georgia Southern University (NCAA), but got little playing time playing 23 games averaging 2.9ppg, 1.7rpg. He started off his NCAA career with a bang hitting Auburn for 19 points, but after that he never scored in double figures again and averaged only 8 minutes per contest. “I knew it was tough at Georgia Southern when I got there in the summer time. I was 17 years old my body was still maturing and it was tough. I had a lot to learn being a freshman and all but by the time the season came around I had gotten stronger and gained weight and I was becoming comfortable although my coach at Georgia Southern didn’t think I was very good. First game of the year I had 19 and I had a lot of confidence but I was also young and mentally very immature. After that game we started playing tougher competition and I definitely didn’t understand at that time how serious people took scouting reports. I didn’t know how to play against my own scouting report. That’s what separates the good from the great”, stressed Jason Burnell.  His freshman season was very difficult and at first glance from his stats and one to forget, but in the long run having this tough season helped him get to the point where he is today. “At the time it wasn’t much positive taken from that season. My coach didn’t think I was very good and it showed. I busted my ass every day in practice and it was like no matter what I did I couldn’t get on the court. Definitely was a low point in my life but the one positive I could take from it was my father. He was there for me. He told me I was a great player and told me that all the time and he believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Coach Byington looked me in my eyes and told me “You can’t play at this level” so I turned that into motivation and now look I’m still playing at a high level. I wish I could tell him thank you for saying that because it’s helped mold me into the player I am today and made me tougher mentally”, stressed Jason Burnell.

            The American who lists current Memphis Grizzlies star point guard Ja Morant as his toughest foe in the NCAA decided to take a few steps back and played JUCO which is the fifth college division. He stayed close to home and played at St. Petersburg College (JUCO). The competition wasn´t as tough as in the NCAA and his good stats of: 20.1ppg, 10.9rpg, 1.1apg, 1.6spg, 1.4bpg, FGP: 54.1%, 3PT: 20.7%, FT: 77.1% helped lift his self-confidence. Taking a few steps back seemed hard at first, but in the long run, it was an experience that helped him get back on track. “At first I was skeptical about going JUCO. I didn’t have no confidence in my ability as a player. My dad and godfather were the ones that helped me into making that decision. They told me to go JUCO and I trusted in them. They said I need to go to JUCO and “reinvent” myself. It was the best decision I could have made and I ended up building that confidence back up and I learned a lot from Coach Crumbley not just about basketball but life. I am grateful for him because he gave me a second chance without hesitation. He helped save my career because I was close to giving in and quitting. I didn’t think I was good at all but my dad, my godfather, and coach Crumbley thought the complete opposite. Thank God for them and what they did for me during that time”, remembered Jason Burnell. He picked up numerous awards and achievements in JUCO like Suncoast Conference Regular Season Co-Champion -17, FCSAA/NJCAA Region VIII All-Tournament Most Valuable Player -17, FCSAA/NJCAA Region VIII All-State Team -17, FCSAA Player of the Year -17, All-Suncoast Conference 1st Team -17, All-Suncoast Conference Player of the Year -17, NJCAA D1 District VIII Champion -17 and NJCAA D1 Sweet 16 -17.

            He finished his last two years in the NCAA with Jacksonville State University (NCAA) playing a total of 66 NCAA games. In his junior year he played 35 games averaging 11.2ppg, 6.0rpg, 1.8apg, 1.0bpg, FGP: 57.9%, 3PT: 33.8%, FT: 78.8% and as a senior played 31 games averaging 17.0ppg, 9.6rpg, 3.0apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 56.0%, 3PT: 33.0%, FT: 79.9%. He made a massive step in his senior year and was blessed that a few people really cared that he become the best player possible. “The difference in my overall play from my junior year to my senior year were because of two people. Coach Scho the strength coach really helped me transform my body. I went from 225 pounds to 242 pounds. 17 pounds of muscle I gained in that offseason and it really helped me. When I go home during the summer I still go back to JSU to go workout with him. Another reason was Coach Harper. We had a long talk and he basically said he was expecting a lot from me for my senior year and he needed me to be more of a leader. I had to become more even keeled not get too high or too down and become mentally tougher and that’s what I did. I had an unbelievable senior year broke the single season scoring record and the single season rebounding record. My team also won the most games in JSU history in a single year. What I did in two years some couldn’t do in four. I left a legacy that will be hard to forget and those two played a huge role in that”, stressed Jason Burnell. In his two seasons at Jacksonville State, he scored in double figures in 50 games and had some monster games scoring 30 points against Belmont, Tennessee State and SIU Edwardsville. He had many great games in the NCAA, but there is one game that he will never forget. “I had so many nice memories on the court at JSU that it’s hard to pick one. I’ll never forget when we played Belmont the first game of conference play and I had a sprained Mcl. I could barely walk in the morning let alone run. I ended up playing and I almost had a triple double 19 pts 12 rebounds and 8 assists. I proved to my coaches that night my leadership and how tough I really am. My dad was watching the game on tv and anytime he gets to see one of my games and I know I make him proud it is the greatest feeling in the world! If I had to pick one moment that will probably be my most memorable”, said Jason Burnell. The American also knows his game wouldn´t be where it is now without having gotten the guidance and support from Ray Harper. “Coach Harper is a basketball genius. He taught me that it’s the little things that can make the biggest difference. My senior year at JSU I became obsessed with watching film and just watching the smallest details about my opponent and myself. He taught me not to just lead by action but to use my voice. The team relied on me a lot to make plays night in and night out and he showed that he trusted me by constantly putting the ball in my hands. Although Coach Harper and I bumped heads a few times our intentions were pure and I love him to death. Byington said I couldn’t play at the Division 1 level and coach Harper gave me the chance to do so. He saw something in me in JUCO that I honestly didn’t see in myself and he took a chance on me just like coach Crumbley did. All I needed was the opportunity and they both gave me that”, expressed Jason Burnell. His awards and achievements continued at Jacksonville State with OVC Tournament Semifinals -18, 19, OVC All-Newcomer Team -18, NJCAA D1 All-American 1st Team -18, CBI Championship Semifinals -18, All-OVC 1st Team -19, OVC All-Tournament Team -19, and NABC NCAA D1 All-District 19 1st Team.

            He remembers getting the best of Jacksonville State teammate Christian Cunningham in one on one duels began his professional basketball career in 2019-2020 with Acqua S.Bernardo Cantu (Italy-Serie A) playing 20 games averaging 11.7ppg, 5.2rpg, 1.5apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 61.8%, 3PT: 34.1%, FT: 72.4%. Coming overseas, a player always has to deal with adjustments concerning how the game is played and it wasn´t any different with him as physicality and foot work were two things that he had to get used to. But he was very fortunate that he played for an organization that had many Americans intact with veterans like Corban Collins and Joe Ragland who were always in his ear giving him the useful tips so his rookie year could be the absolute best experience. “My rookie year in Cantù was an unbelievable experience I enjoyed every second of it. For the longest it didn’t hit me that I was halfway across the world. My teammate and I (Kevarrius Hayes) used to joke around saying it felt like we were in Kansas not in Italy. For some reason it just didn’t feel that I was halfway across the world living and playing basketball in another country. It didn’t hit me until around October. I was having some personal inner circle issues going on and I had to deal with that all alone and that’s when it hit me that I’m not home. It definitely made me stronger mentally and emotionally and I’m thankful for that because God got me through it and I came out better on the other side. I also learned how to get through things and deal with issues without being home”, stressed Jason Burnell. He scored in double figures in 11 games and he had some unforgettable games against Trento scoring 24 points, hit Pesaro for 21 points, but a game he will never forget was exploding for 29 points against Fortitudo BO. “What I remember most about the game against Fortitudo Bolonga is me giving up the baseline drive at the end that cost us the game. I played unbelievable that game and didn’t miss a three and had my career high and still is my career high in scoring. Giving up that drive at the end was definitely heartbreaking. Having a game like that and not being able to come out with a win always hurt. I gave it all I had but I learned from it and it help me grow as a player”, said Jason Burnell.

            So let´s fast forward to the 2020-2021 season as the American who lists Lebron James, Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaq on his personal NBA Mount Rushmore is playing for Banco di Sardegna Sassari (Italy-Serie A). Just like every other player, he also had to deal with COVID-19, but he has been able to cope and come out more potent as a man. “The pandemic has not been easy at all. Not being able to finish my rookie year was very frustrating and saddening. God makes no mistakes though. He has a reason and purpose for everything. I learned a lot in the process. You can’t take the simple things for granted such as going out to eat, going out with friends, playing in front of fans etc. I definitely came out much stronger mentally and I definitely try to live life to the fullest and play every game like it is my last because you just never know what can happen”, warned Jason Burnell. The club has performed very well in the Italian Serie A and reached the next round in the Basketball Champions League, but at a moment have an uphill climb. “The reason we have had success as a team so far this season is because we play very well together and off the court we are close. Poz gives us so much confidence and is an unbelievable coach. We trust one another and we all care about winning and we play for each other. We don’t have anybody that is selfish or puts their self before the team we are truly a team and we play as one. We are 0-2 in BCL right now but we have 4 games left and I like our chances. Zaragoza, Bamberg, and Nymburk all are great teams. Zaragoza played an unbelievable game and beat us at home. Nymburk hit a shot with a second left and beat us on the road but we have a lot of basketball left to play. We just have to prepare for the next one and learn from the losses and we will be fine”, warned Jason Burnell. The club suffered misfortune losing highly skilled American Justin Tillmann, but have picked up another American with Ethan Happ for the stretch run. “Losing Justin wasn’t easy and I hate that he had to leave but he had to do what is best for him and I have nothing but respect for that and him. Ethan has been instrumental to our team. Being able to get a player of his caliber this late in the year is rare. Ethan has fit right in and I’m excited for how good we will be when everybody is healthy”, stated Jason Burnell.

            The American who names Kevarrius Hayes (Cantù) Wyatt Walker (Providence) Joe Ragland (Cantù) Deion Johnson (Providence) and Corbin Collins (Cantù) as his best five teammates of all-time is in Germany for the first time as he is playing a Basketball Champions League game against Brose Bamberg. His ex teammate Corban Collins began his basketball career in Germany and Will Cummings who played for the same high school coach as Burnell had a massive season in Germany with the EWE Baskets in 2018-2019 as he led the easyCredit BBL in scoring. “This is my first time in Germany and I know very little about Germany. I took German language classes when I was in high school so I know a little German but It has been a while since I learned. From the basketball side, Dirk Nowitzki and Dennis Schroder both are from Germany. I know the BBL is a very competitive league like Serie A”, added Jason Burnell. The American is a player that liked watching NBA players Paul Milsap, Boris Diaw, Antonine Jamison when he was younger, because they weren´t the greatest scorers but got the job done. In his second professional season he is putting up very solid stats as in the Serie A he is averaging 13,0ppg, 6,6rpg, 3,7apg and 1,2spg while shooting 33% from outside and in the Basketball Champions League he is averaging 11,4ppg, 6,5rpg, 4,3apg, and 1,0spg. One part of his game has really taken off this season as his playmaking is more in the foreground. “The biggest difference in this year for me is I’m able to show my best skill which is passing. Scoring has never been something I focused on it just comes and rebounding is about effort and toughness and that’s what I am. My role on this team is just to play hard on both sides and bring energy. I just try my hardest to stay positive and Bring energy to the team. Poz’s system is PERFECT for me and he gives me so much confidence. I have great scorers inside and great shooters so I just try my hardest to get them the ball in their spots and put them in positions to score”, stressed Jason Burnell. He doesn´t only sparkle on the offensive end, but also is establishing himself as a type of lock down defender. “I take a lot of pride in defense. Defense isn’t anything but effort and toughness. My JUCO coach, Earnest Crumbley, taught me that. Ever since then I’ve became a better defender. Defense is something I take very seriously and personal. I’m a tough physical defender. I will never allow you to get anything easy and I always try to be in a position to help my teammates and sometimes that can be a weakness because I may help a little too much but I will get better and continue to grow and learn on the defensive end”, expressed Jason Burnell. He is on a very good route in continuing to climb the basketball ladder, but he also knows that he can´t take a day off and has that Black Mamba approach knowing that the grind to get better never ends. Just seeing guys like Kobe Bryant and Julius Randle grind every day has been an inspiration for him.  I’m always working. God gave me a talent and it would be put to waste if I didn’t work relentlessly at perfecting my craft. When I went home for the FIBA break I worked everyday and didn’t take one day off. If you want to be good at something you have to work at it and guys like Julius Randle have that mentality to constantly work to get better and elevate their game. Two things I’m working on most are being a more consistent efficient threat from the three and becoming more comfortable playing the ball screen. With the covid pandemic I wasn’t able to get in the gym as much this past summer as I wanted. So I wasn’t able to get as many shots up or work on ball screen situations but I’ve still been effective this year. I feel like once I become a better 3 point threat and become more comfortable using ball screens the sky is the limit. And I’m certain from now to the end of this upcoming offseason I’ll have those things down pact and become a much better player than I am now”, warned Jason Burnell. The American has defied all odds coming from the JUCO and being told he can´t play division one to being a force in the Italian Serie A, but his journey is far from over as this guy will continue to get better and climb the ladder. When he isn´t taking the extra time to work in the lab on his craft, he enjoys watching movie´s. His favorite flick of all-time is the Godfather a movie that he watches once a week. It would be the perfect setting if he played for Orlandina Basket, because they play on the beautiful island of Sicily where the Mafia was born. But instead he plays and lives on the pretty island of Sardinia that is a peaceful place. But all in all, one thing that both islands have an abundance of is water. He loves the tranquility of the water and feels like at home in Florida. He really has everything he needs to be comfortable and be able to perform his craft to the best of his ability and continue to develop further.

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