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Burgess' defensive reputation well deserved
By Ben Knoester

Nate BurgessOpponents know Nate Burgess because of his rock-solid screening technique and his box outs that feel like a thoroughbred, not a human body, is separating them from the nearest rebound. Calvin basketball fans know Nate Burgess as a hard-working, tough-as-nails type of player that would go through a brick wall if the team needed him to.

Unlike many athletes, Burgess' reputation did not happen by accident. Burgess is the hard working and toughest player on the court because he wants to be. "I take a very aggressive mentality with me when I step out on the floor. I want to be known as a blue-collar player who gives 110 percent all the time," said Burgess. "I have always believed that actions speak louder than words."

Appropriately enough, one of the defining moments in his career happened not because of what he said, but because of what he did. In a second round NCAA III Tournament game against Franklin College during Calvin's 2000 national title run, it was Burgess who wiggled into the paint and somehow managed to tip in the winning basket with seconds left in overtime before crashing to the floor. "That play was definitely the top moment of my career at any level," admits Burgess. "It was basically an instinct play; I just went after the ball. I didn't feel anything when I hit the floor." That single play by Burgess kept Calvin alive in the tournament as the Knights continued on to win the national championship.

"Winning the national championship was unbelievable," remembered the South Christian High School graduate. "The fact that we won didn't hit me until a couple of days after the actual championship game. It was such a relief to see an entire summer plus a full season of hard work pay off."

As a senior starter and tri-captain this year, Burgess averaged 8.7 points and 3.9 rebounds a game while connecting on 42 percent of his three-point field goal attempts. His three-point shooting ability was never more evident than in a thrilling 84-82 overtime victory at rival Hope as he drilled a pair of triples in the final minute of overtime including the game winner with seven seconds left to play.

Named MIAA Co-Player of the Week after his performance in the MIAA tournament, Burgess was then named to the All-MIAA second team after coming off the bench his first three years on the varsity.

"Moving into a starter's role was a bigger transition for me than I first thought it would be," he said. "I used to get a feel for the game by watching it from the bench. As a starter you can't watch. You have to get out of the gate the moment tip-off happens."

His preparation was noticed by Calvin coach Kevin Vande Streek. "The one thing about Nate Burgess is that he always came ready to play," said Vande Streek. "We'll remember him for some of the big shots he hit in his career but he'll also be remembered for his defensive play. I may be biased but I thought he was the top defensive player in the MIAA this year."

A business major, Burgess plans to graduate in May and then may explore a job opportunity in Montana. "I'm a big outdoors type of person," said Burgess. "I spent some time in Alaska with a friend last summer and it was a blast. Working in a place like Montana is definitely something I'd like to check out."

 

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