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LaGrange’s Burks makes his decision

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

He saved his best for last.

After serving primarily as a complementary player in previous seasons, LaGrange High’s D.J. Burks got the opportunity to take center stage as a senior, and he thrived in that role.

Burks led the Grangers in scoring at 17 points per game, and he also averaged seven assists and five rebounds.

Burks’ good work didn’t go unnoticed.

Burks was recruited by a number of different colleges, and in the end he chose one in the Sunshine State.

Burks has verbally committed to Florida College, an NAIA institution located in Temple Terrace near Tampa.

For Burks, the game-day atmosphere at Florida College reminded him of his time at LaGrange High, which helped tilt the school in his favor.

“It’s a good program, a great campus,” Burks said. “It feels like a family atmosphere down there. Everybody’s into the sport. The town, they support the team, and they have a Blue Crew just like LaGrange. It just had the LaGrange High School atmosphere, and I love playing in that atmosphere. That had a lot to do with it. It’s a great fit for me.”

Burks, who began his prep career at LaGrange Academy before transferring to LaGrange High, visited a handful of colleges, and he had fun with that aspect of the recruiting process.

“I enjoyed it, just going from campus to campus, and playing with the different players at the different colleges,” Burks said. “I got a feel for the college game. It was great.”

Burks showed flashes of the kind of player he can be in previous seasons, but everything came together during the 2019-2020 school year.

Burks was a dynamic play-maker with the ability to knock down 3-pointers or drive to the basket, and he also did a nice job of setting up his teammates with his passing skills.

“I didn’t really have a primary role my junior year, so coming up for my senior year, I knew it was my role to score and put people in a position to do well,” Burks said. “So, I think I handled that role.”

With Burks leading the way, LaGrange started the season with 17 consecutive wins, and the season ended with a 68-62 loss to Denmark in the first round of the Class AAAA state tournament.

“He was more of a role guy his junior year, and on the court he made a lot of strides,” LaGrange head coach Mark Veal said. “He played off the ball, and handled it some. He had a good year shooting the ball, and he made some plays for us that helped us get off to that tremendous start.”

Burks enjoyed every moment of his senior season, particularly that memorable start.

“It was an historic year, starting off 17-0,” Burks said. “I never thought this team could do that. It was a blessing this year. I loved it.”

LaGrange improved to 17-0 with a 58-54 win over the Troup Tigers, and that was an unforgettable night.

It was the first game in Troup’s new gymnasium, and more than 2,000 spectators were in attendance.

Burks came up huge in that game with 21 points

“Opening night, that was historic,” Burks said. “There were 2,500 people in the gym. There were great emotions. You had the nervousness running out, just seeing all those people.

“The fans were into it. Everybody was into it from the first quarter, all the way to the fourth quarter. That was a great atmosphere.”

Burks’ favorite moments, though, were games played in LaGrange High’s old gym, with an always raucous group of students helping to give the Grangers a decided home-court advantage.

“That’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity playing at LaGrange High School,” Burks said. “You don’t see that at many high schools. The Blue Crew is just amazing, the fan support. Every game the stands were filled.”

One person who was always in the stands was Burks’ father, Dialleo Burks, who was the LaGrange High head football coach from 2014 to 2017.

“He’s been right there by my side since day one,” D.J. Burks said. “He’s loved every minute of it, the ups and downs. I thank him for everything.”