Jan. 3, 2009
By Michael Wittliff
Four years have flown by for senior forward Dwight Burke at Marquette.
"It seems like one big long year, it has gone by quickly," said Burke of his time at Marquette. "Seems like just yesterday I got here in '05 and now its '09 already. Time just flies."
The 6-foot-8 post player from Brooklyn, N.Y., along with the other members of the senior class, has helped Marquette to three NCAA Tournament berths in his three years. This season the Golden Eagles are looking to make a fourth-straight appearance for the first time since the 1980 season, and most of that falls on the shoulders of the four seniors who populate the starting line-up for Marquette.
"I'm proud of everything we have done here so far. We still have a mission to accomplish this year, its not guaranteed that we are going to the tournament this year, we still have to work towards that."
That work includes a bulk of the minutes for the Golden Eagles as every starter averages at least 20 minutes per game including Burke, who sits at 20.3 per contest following MU's defeat of North Carolina State on Dec. 22. This year Burke is averaging more than double the 9.3 minutes he registered during his first three years and set a career-high with 32 minutes played against Tennessee.
One of the reasons for the increased playing time are Burke's height and power up front, both of which are sorely lacking for the Golden Eagles.
"My role is to provide defensive energy and a presence in the post," said Burke. "In the BIG EAST we will be going against a lot of post players and even though I am undersized, I have to stop them from scoring and rebounding and everything. If I can do that it helps us get out on the break and get fast break buckets like we would like to do."
Those little things helped Marquette escape from Raleigh, N.C. with a victory over N.C. State. A key steal with just over 30 seconds remaining in the game and a screen which helped spring point guard Dominic James for an open three-pointer to win the game with 0.4 seconds left, propelled Marquette to its first true road victory of the season.
With the non-conference portion of the schedule over, Burke along with the other members of the squad from the East Coast are looking to get back home to have their family and friends in the stands.
"Growing up all I watched was the BIG EAST and now that I am here its important for me because everytime we go East I will have some kind of family there watching me play," explained Burke. "It's good though being able to keep in touch, seeing them face-to-face and having them come out and support me. That is something I look forward to every year."
Attending St. Benedict's in New Jersey for prep school allowed to Burke to play with and against some premier prep talent, including current Marquette guard David Cubillan, with whom Burke played at St. Benedict's for a season. Joining the BIG EAST has allowed Marquette to get back to the recruiting days of Al McGuire when most of the roster was comprised of top notch East Coast talent. These days Burke, Cubillan, Hayward and Hazel all hail from the East Cost and have signed since MU entered the BIG EAST.
Even with the trials and tribulations that may occur over the course of the season, Burke sees his team as a tight-knit bunch of guys who are always there for each other.
"It's all fun off the court, its just a big family," said Burke. "We hang out with each other off the court, while a lot of teams go their separate ways. The relationship off the court helps build the relationship on the court. If you are going to war with someone everyday you have to know that they have your back. Being there for you if you have a problem at home with your family they are always there for you. They are my best friends."
Burke not only sees the value of the people he has met during his time at Marquette but how those friendships will help him later in life.
"People say relationships in college you will build for the rest of your lives and as a senior, I am looking forward to seeing what that is going to be like once we move on. Seeing if we keep in touch and seeing those guys after we are gone."
Recently that closeness was shown on ESPN's SportsCenter as MU's senior quartet was shown performing their own rendition of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," a clip which also earned a spot on their "Not Top-10 Plays of the Week."
"It was kind of embarrassing because everybody saw it," revealed Burke. "Everybody back home has been teasing me about it, telling me I need to learn the words and my dancing and all that. It was kind of a shock. I actually saw it after we lost to Tennessee, I was watching SportsCenter and it came on, I was like "Oh, man." I wasn't looking forward to all the calls and text messages the next day. It was fun though."
Looking back through the previous years and with an eye towards the future, Burke has enjoyed his time in blue and gold.
"Everything we have accomplished, people say we put Marquette back on the map after the Final Four team left. It makes us pretty proud." Burke contemplated. "But its not just us, its the seniors that we played when we were freshmen and the younger guys that helped build a legacy and tradition of hard work that we are trying to continue now. I would like to see a national championship, which we have to work towards everyday."