One of the most accomplished athletes in recent history at Bulloch Academy made her move to the next phase of her athletic career Tuesday afternoon in front of friends, family and teammates.
Lady Gator standout Ashley Burke, who won two state basketball championships while playing at BA, was given preferred walk-on status by Georgia Southern University. The multiple-sport athlete made her commitment to continue her basketball career as a Lady Eagle official Tuesday.
“I knew that I wanted to stay home and play basketball and I’m blessed that I’m able to do both here at Georgia Southern,” Burke said.
The transition into a NCAA Division I athlete will be an interesting one, Burke said. The 17-year-old said she isn’t familiar with just playing one sport at a time. In fact, for the past five years, Burke has been involved in practically every sport offered at Bulloch Academy.
“I’m excited because I get to focus on just one sport. I think I’ll be able to improve more just focusing on one sport than playing five sports every year,” Burke said.
Despite having an athletic knack for any sport she chose to participate in, Burke established a legacy in BA for her basketball skills. As a Lady Gator, she helped BA to two state titles, three Final Four appearances and four region championships.
The talented point guard started on the varsity team since her second game of her freshman year and led BA to a 109-15 record during her tenure at BA.
In her senior year on the court, Burke averaged 16.4 points per game to go along with 5.9 rebounds per game. She also averaged 5.3 assists. Burke was named an All-State player three years and surpassed the 1,000-point threshold earlier this year.
“I’m going to miss it a lot, but sometimes you have to leave your past behind and start a new life,” Burke said.
Burke playing at the collegiate level isn’t uncommon for her family. She comes from a long line of athletically gifted standout athletes. Her father Bryan Burke played baseball at South Georgia College and her mother Beth ran cross country at GSU. Her older brother Taylor Burke played baseball for GSU as well.
Burke said besides basketball, her favorite sport was soccer because of the team-oriented mentality. The newest Lady Eagle helped the Gators advance to the second round of the playoffs for two consecutive seasons.
In track, Burke won a state championship in the 3200-meter and 1600-meter runs. She was also an All-Region runner for all five season in her track career.
“As the athletic director at Bulloch Academy, it’s great to see student athletes move on,” said Chandler Dennard, who coached Burke for five years as a varsity softball player. “When you have the talent like her, you’ll regret not playing at that next level. It’s always good to see the hard work pay off for these kids. It’s fulfilling.”
Dennard said it was bittersweet seeing Burke move on to the next phase of her career, but was happy to be there for the positive years.
“Ashley was a five-year starter for me and she turned down two offers to play softball somewhere else. Seeing players like that graduate of course I’m going to get emotional,” laughed Dennard. “Those type of players are hard to replace. All these kids are my kids and that’s one of the great things about going to BA. They become one of your own.”
Along with being a stellar athlete, Burke also maintained an “A” average in the classroom.
Horace Holloman may be reached at (912) 489-9408.