Cierra Burdick is Striving for Gold
July 16, 2011 • Colorado Springs, Colo.
A 6-2 forward out of Matthews, N.C., Cierra Burdick has had quite a lot of success in her young life. After surviving open-heart surgery when she was just two, Burdick has aided her Butler High School basketball team to the 2010 North Carolina Class 4A state championship, picked up a couple individual state titles in track & field – both indoor and outdoor – and excels in the classroom as well. She graduated from Butler this year with a weighted 4.28 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society.
Burdick is heading to the University of Tennessee in the fall. But, before she dons the orange Lady Vol uniform, she’s striving for her third medal playing for her country. She was on the 2009 USA U16 National Team that went 5-0 and claimed gold at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship and in 2010, Burdick aided the U.S. to gold at the FIBA U17 World Championship. One of five finalists for the 2011 Naismith High School Player of the Year honor, Burdick is used to playing a starting role on her teams. However, she has happily adjusted to coming off the bench for her first two USA Basketball squads. Burdick only wants to do whatever she can to help the team.
“My role is just to do whatever coach asks me to do,” she stated following the USA’s final practice in Colorado Springs. “If it’s rebounding, going after 10 rebounds a game, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get that board. If it’s just locking down their best player, I’m willing to have the heart to step up, take a charge. Anything they ask me to do.”
The U.S. squad will need Burdick’s energy and unselfishness, as it looks to defend the gold medal for the three-time defending FIBA U19 World Champions. The tournament starts on July 21 in Puerto Montt, Chile, with the USA opening up against Japan.
Before the USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team headed to Chile, USABasketball.com sat down with Burdick to find out what she thinks about playing for her country, how it feels coming off the bench, and what she’d like to do with her future after basketball.
What is the best thing about playing for your country?
It’s always an honor to come out and wear USA on your chest. People dream about it and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. Coming out here and competing with the best players in the country, it makes you a better player every time you step into the gym. The fact that you’re getting better while having the opportunity to represent your country is the best part.
Playing for your country with USA across your chest, do you feel that you’re part of a bigger team along with all the other athletes who are representing this country in various sports?
I do. When you were cheering during the soccer game (the USA’s semifinal victory over France was on during one of the U19 team’s practices), every single time you clapped, I just got happy. When you have USA across your chest, you’re representing so much more than yourself, so much more than your family and friends at home, you’re representing your entire country. Not many people have the opportunity to come out and do that. I am rooting on our U.S. Soccer Team. I want them to get the gold, for sure.
After a week in Florida and four days of two-a-days in Colorado, how is the team looking?
We’re gradually starting to put stuff together. When you bring 12 girls together, it takes time to really get that chemistry and that bond on the floor. We’re just coming in and working hard. Hopefully, by the time the tournament comes around, we’re ready to step out on the floor prepared and get a win.
What do you think your role will be on the team?
My role is just to do whatever coach asks me to do. If it’s rebounding, going after 10 rebounds a game, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get that board. If it’s just locking down their best player, I’m willing to have the heart to step up, take a charge. Anything they ask me to do.
You’ve been a starter on your high school and AAU team. What kind of an adjustment was it for you to come off the bench on the USA U16 and U17 teams?
It’s a learning experience, actually. I just wanted the best for the team and I knew that 6’10” (Breanna Stewart) and E (Elizabeth Williams) were dominant post players and I’m not a dominant post player. I’m kind of an in-betweener. So, the fact that they went out and got buckets, that’s what I wanted. I wanted to be in the best place for an opportunity to get a win.
What will the key to this team’s success be?
We need to execute. I think sometimes we get so scatterbrained and try to go a million miles an hour. If we just lock up on defense then execute on the offensive end and take our time, we could be really great.
How much will it help you next season to be playing for three college coaches with this team?
It’s preparing us. These aren’t high school practices. Like Coach Rizzotti always says, these are college-based practices. We’re going full paced, running up and down the floor. It’s an eye-opener for what I’m going to see at Tennessee.
Have the coaches talked about how tough the competition will be at the U19 World Championship?
Every world championship, there’s going to be competition and we can’t take anybody lightly. We just have to come out ready to play every game and not take anything for granted.
You’re successful in so many areas – basketball, track & field, the classroom – is there any area where you’ve ever struggled?
I feel like I’m successful because of my trials and tribulations. For you to succeed, you have to fail and I’ve failed plenty of times. But, I’ve learned from my failures and turned it into success. I feel like that’s part of the reason why I’ve been able to be successful on the track and on the court and in the classroom. My family and friends around me, they’re really, they push me to do what I do.
So you credit your success to them?
Of course. My mom’s always there supporting me. She’s my No. 1 fan and I wouldn’t be able to do anything or be anywhere without her.
You have younger siblings. Do you feel you have to do even better at things in order to be a good role model for your siblings?
I do. I pray every night that my little brother is successful and keeps his head on straight. He’s only six, but he’ll be turning seven two days after we get back and I’m looking forward to that. My little sisters, I just try to be the best role model I can for them.
Who is your role model?
My mom, she is my role model. She’s been through pretty much anything you could go through. She’s struggled with alcohol and drugs and everything. Now, she’s 26 years sober, in AA, and I just look up to her, because of what she went through, I’ve learned from it. It’s taught me not to do some of the things that she has done.
You’ve done a lot of volunteer work in your community. What was the impetus for that?
I’m really big in supporting youth. After basketball and everything’s said and done, I really want to open a mentor program and just be a role model for those who maybe aren’t as fortunate, and who have gone through the trials and tribulations that I have gone through and that I know that others have been going through. I want to set up a role model program that they can come to and learn from, be around others who are like them, and not let the trials and tribulations hinder them so that they can be successful.
Your great-grandfather played for the Chicago Bears?
Yes, he did. It’s my poppa’s dad. I never had the opportunity to meet him, I wish I did. I just know that he played for the Bears. So, when I went to the McDonald’s All-American Game that was in Chicago, I just tried to represent for him.