One of the most exciting trends to watch for me in professional basketball is a player’s journey and march up the basketball ladder. Obviously watching a Lebron James go from high school to the NBA was interesting, but after a few years in the league it was apparent that he was something special and he would become a superstar. But for me watching the underdog with a lot of talent that had to always grind and have a chip on their shoulder as heavy as mammoth pick up truck move up the ladder with slow steps was inspiring. There are hundreds maybe more of these types of players in Europe that have a special story and one of those is Deondre Burns (190-G-1997, college: ORU, agency: Haylett Sports) (190-G-1997, college: ORU, agency: Haylett Sports) (190-G-1997, college: ORU, agency: Haylett Sports). Ok so he doesn’t have the total crazy story of going from JUCO to the a high league, but still went from a small role on a NCAA team to a big one at Oral Roberts (NCAA) and now is continuing to toil and battle making a name for himself and moving up the basketball ladder. Currently he is playing in Cyprus for Keravnos Strovolou (OPAP Basket League). It was a few days before Christmas 2022 and the American guard was battling ex Euroleague team Brose Bamberg at home in a Fiba Europe Cup game. When the buzzer sounded, his team had suffered a brutal 90-87 loss, but he had belonged to the best players on the court with 26 points, 4 rebounds and 6 dimes against a team from a top 5 league in Europe and a league he would surely like to play in one day. He is having a super Fiba Europe Cup season and surely has turned heads of some GM’s from teams in higher leagues. Tomorrow is the return game in Bamberg and he will be extra motivated to get revenge. His offense is a big strength in his game, but he wants to be known as a 2 way player. Tomorrow he will have the chance to possibly battle against Patrick Miller who didn’t play in the first game in Cyprus and other top players while having that mind set to have to prove himself all over again especially on defense. ‘I believe I am a pretty solid good defender, have gotten much better each year from the previous. No teams look to attack me, I pride myself on not being the weak link on that end of the court. Although, I have room to improve certainly to become an even better defender and overall player’, warned Deondre Burns who believes LeBron is the greatest complete basketball player ever, Jordan is the most iconic and greatest competitor and Kobe is great, one of the greatest in fact, just not on those two guys’ level in his opinion.
Deondre Burns who remembers Marcus Keene being his toughest cover in the NCAA was born on January 16th, 1997 in Carrollton, Texas. He played at Newman Smith high school for coach Percy Johnson. In his senior year he was one of the top players in the Dallas area class 5A and averaged 23,9ppg, 4,4rpg and 2,1apg and was named all-area honorable mention. He then played at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (NCAA) from 2015-2019 playing a total of 70 NCAA games and missed the entire 2017-2018 season because of a knee injury. He was able to make strides there improving his stats each season. He averaged 1.7ppg as a freshman and then in his second season averaged 7.0ppg, 1.5rpg, FGP: 48.9%, 3PT: 41.0%, FT: 80.8%. After sitting out the 2017-2018 season he made another jump in his game his junior year averaging 10.0ppg, 2.8rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 47.8%, 3PT: 30.6%, FT: 76.7% In his freshman year he helped his school win the Sunbelt title .Halfway through his second season his game took off with games against Appalachian State and Co Carolina where he produced 16 and 17 points. After that he finished the season scoring in double figures in 6 more games. He remembers what his secret was to finding his touch on the floor. ‘Minutes and freedom. Simply being on the floor and having the freedom to be myself and comfortable was key in that stretch. Those were the first starts of my career’, remembered Deondre Burns. His game really took off in his junior season as he scored in double figures in 12 games including 22 points against S Alabama, but his biggest moment was against Howard where he shot almost flawlessly 9/10 from the field while steering 29 points in the big 97-76 victory. ‘I remember my family traveling up to come to this game, the basket seemed bigger this night. I had a great workout that morning and remember my body just feeling great going into the game’, stated Deondre Burns. He then felt the need for a new challenge and went to Oral Roberts University (NCAA). Here he once again had to prove himself and made another step in his development playing 31 games averaging 15.3ppg, 4.1rpg, 4.1apg, FGP: 51.0%, 3PT: 29.1%, FT: 79.8%. He couldn’t of made it without the supreme guidance of head coach Paul Mills. ‘He was always talking about being a pro. All of my previous coaches talked about being a pro as if it was a unlikely thing. Mills always showed us video clips of why pros are pros, and I would always think to myself ‘hey, I can do that’ or ‘I need to work on this’, remembered Deondre Burns who remembered having great practice battles with RJ Fuqua who was one of the best competitors he had ever been around. In his senior year he scored in double figures in 23 of 31 games. He scored 20 points or more 11 times including 31 points in a tough 74-68 loss to North Dakota. He also had big games scoring 22 points in wins against Central Oklahoma and Western Illinois. He was named to the Summit League second team and newcomer team.
The high scoring guard who lists LeDarrius Drain, Mike Morrison, Nate Krill, Matt Milon, and Vid Milenkovic as his best teammates of all-time. He came overseas during Covid in late summer 2020 and played with the Starwings Basket Regio Basel (Switzerland-SBL). Despite Corona wrecking havoc all over the place and also having to adjust to a new culture and overseas game, he needed no adjustment period on the court. He showed that basketball is basketball all over the place averaging 20.0ppg, 4.4rpg, 4.2apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 49.4%, 3PT: 36.7%, FT: 82.2%. It is obvious that his wake up call wasn’t on the floor. ‘My wake up call was the fact that I could not regularly eat my favorite snacks and foods from back home’, smiled Deondre Burns. He scored in double figures in 28 of 30 games and scored 20 points or more 17 times including 2 explosions of 31 points in a win against Boncourt and 30 points in a win against Neuchatel. He played his first playoff series and had great series in the wins over Geneva averaging 17/6/6 stats and averaged 22,0ppg and 7,0apg in the series win over Neuchatel, but it wasn’t enough as the final was lost 3-0 to Fribourg. ‘I learned to be grateful, although we lost. I helped take a team who has never been to the finals before in history’, said Deondre Burns. When looking at his time in Cyprus one could quote the 80’s classic from Rod Stewart with some guys have all the luck. Some guys play 10 plus years and don’t win a chip while others may win 1, but Burns has won a total of 4 at the young age of 26. He knows that you can’t take anything for granted. He may have inherited a wining gene form somewhere? ‘It has been a great experience. It is always fun being a part of a culture that not only wants to win but expects to win. As a high-level competitor, that’s what you look for. I have to credit that to God; he has blessed me with a winning career thus far. As for having a winning gene, I do think what I bring to the team as a basketball player affects winning in many different positive ways’, warned Deondre Burns. Last season he took his skill set from the Swiss alps to Cyprus and made another step up the basketball ladder averaging 21.0ppg, 5.5rpg, 4.0apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 53.7%, 3PT-1 (47.2%), FT: 87.0%. Once again he showed that he is the ultimate scoring point guard scoring in double figures in 31 of 32 games. He scored 20 points or more 17 times including a 39 point explosion against Apollon, but saved his best for last. He helped win the league title against AEK Larnaca coming back from 2-1 down and win in exciting fashion in game 5 90-88 and putting up a Jordan like 39 points. ‘This was by far my most meaningful and memorable game up to date. It was a win or go home situation, I just wanted to be as aggressive as possible. I think coming in with that attitude gave us the best chances to win in a hostile away crowd’, remembered Deondre Burns. He also watched teammate Collin Malcolm have a great season with him and now has moved up the basketball ladder to top 5 league easyCredit BBL in Germany. He knows where he is now, but is focusing more on himself than on where others are. ‘Collin is a great guy and basketball player. I had several of those opportunities during free agency this past summer but felt it wasn’t best for myself and career at that particular time. Also, I think comparison is the thief of joy, so I try not to focus on what someone else has going on. My path is my path’, stressed Deondre Burns.
The Texas native who has Michael Jordan. Allen Iverson. Kobe Bryant and Lebron James. On his personal NBA Mount Rushmore won 3 titles last season in Cyprus and already his second Super Cup this season. It is obvious that the expectations are high, but so far the club is are where they want to be at #1 with a 13-1 record. The club has a healthy mind set and don’t worry about expectations and the need to have to win. ‘We feel no pressure. We come to work and do our jobs every day. Not worrying about the month of May but instead focusing on getting better on that particular day. We believe we are good enough and when that time arrives, we will be ready to compete’, warned Deondre Burns. A big reason for the success has been the experience factor. The club has 4 guys that are 30 and over. Older veterans like Titus Robinson and Remy Abell had been instrumental in the team’s success, but the basketball world can be cruel and before one knows it guys end up elsewhere. ‘ It was great having guys like Remy and Titus around. Great team guys that will play basketball for a long time. Unfortunately, our time got cut short together as both of those guys are no longer with the Keravnos organization’, stated Deondre Burns.
The guard who believes that the classic Coming to America should have been left alone is a 190cm guard that doesn’t like to compare his game to one player but thinks his game resembles a mixture of a group of different players and not just one and tries to add certain aspects from player’s games to his. It is no secret that his scoring game really took off at Oral Roberts and got even better as a professional overseas. ‘That season at ORU was by far my best and most productive season. The staff there is amazing, allowed me to be my aggressive self all while improving other areas on my game. Especially guys like Soloman Bozeman, whose currently head coach at UAPB. Ian Laymon, and Dakota Brasher really helped hone my skills into what they are today’, warned Deondre Burns. His playmaking also has vastly improved since his Oral Roberts senior season. He has averaged 4,0apg the last 4 seasons and could continue to be a vital aspect of his game especially for teams in higher leagues. ‘I believe my game affects winning in many different areas and not just scoring. I think as I continue to reach higher levels, these attributes would be even more critical’, stressed Deondre Burns. Last season he belonged to the best three point shooters in Cyprus shooting 47%, but this season is down at 32% in Cyprus and 24% in the Fiba Europe Cup. He knows that he will be able to up his percentages as the season goes on. ‘Shot selection has by far been most challenging for me this year. The offense has been tough to know when and where my shots are coming from. Things will average out towards the end of the season when I get more acclimated within the offense. No shortage of confidence or reps whatsoever’, expressed Deondre Burns. His stats in Cyprus may be down form last season at 12,0ppg, 3,2rpg, 3,8apg and 1,2spg, but he is tearing up the Fiba Europe cup being the second top scorer averaging 19,9ppg, 4,2rpg, 4,4apg and 1,3spg. He isn’t worried about his stats and scoring in Cyprus, because he has proven what he can do the last 2 seasons, but mainly about other areas that will aid him to continuing to climb the basketball ladder. ‘Making the right play, sometimes it means just a quick pass to get the ball reversed. It doesn’t show up in the stat sheet but can be very critical in a possession. The little things I am trying to focus and improve more’, commented Deondre Burns. It will be interesting to witness where the career will go in the next few years. One thing is for sure, he is already a winner and that always looks great on resume’s and high level clubs are always looking for great defenders. Priding himself as not being the weakest link will always help him no matter what.