Janell Burse: Ready To Contribute

by Ryan Semanko

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Ever since Lynx center Janell Burse started playing basketball many years ago, she has been a defensive specialist. In college at Tulane, she finished her career as the school's all-time leader in blocked shots and won Conference USA's Defensive Player of the Year award three times. Standing 6-5, Burse is now known in the WNBA as one of the league's top shot blockers and defenders.

Lynx head coach Suzie McConnell Serio relied on Burse to provide that defensive and rebounding spark off the bench for the first 20 games this season. Burse got accustomed to her role as a reserve. "The hardest part of coming off the bench is being cold and coming into the game when everyone is warm," Burse said. "Once you get past that adjustment, it is just the same, just playing basketball."

But Burse was inserted into the starting lineup at Connecticut on July 23, due to injuries to Michele Van Gorp and Svetlana Abrosimova. She scored five points in 13 minutes that game, then exploded two days later with a career-high 21 points, five rebounds and a career-high four steals in the Lynx' biggest win in team history, 81-54, over San Antonio. She became just the eighth player in franchise history (and the first center) to record a 20-point game. Just one day later, Burse was instrumental in an upset win at Indiana, setting a franchise record with five blocked shots in a career-high 34 minutes.

Tuesday at Houston, Burse had 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting, adding a game-high nine rebounds. She then recorded a game-high 20 points and with a game- and career-high 12 rebounds in a key Western Conference victory over Seattle on Saturday, recording the team's second double-double of the season and the first of her career. She added four blocks in that game as well.

In five games as a starter this season, she is averaging 13.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game.

"I've been coaching for 13 years, and I've always seen that if you give players the opportunity, they will produce," said McConnell Serio following Saturday's game. "Coaches are in the position to give a player confidence, and her being in the starting lineup, she took that opportunity and ran. She just goes out now and plays with a great deal of confidence. She's a different player on the court. She was a player that went from getting very few minutes to having a hard time taking her off the floor."

"I never stop working out, no matter when I play or when I didn't," Burse said. "It was hard not playing, but I never let it get me down to the point where I didn't want to get better. So I just kept working out, knowing that my day would come. Hopefully now it's coming, and things are starting to fall together for me."

Not only has Burse seen an increase in productivity this season, but the team has also shown improvement over the franchise's first four years. With 10 home wins, the Lynx have already surpassed their previous franchise high by two, and the team is just one win away from tying the franchise mark in overall wins (set in both 1999 and 2000). Now, Burse and her teammates are looking straight ahead to a potential spot in the WNBA playoffs for the first time.

"Everyone has been saying they want to get to the playoffs," Burse said, "but I am saying I want to make it to the championship."

With her positive attitude and good work ethic, Burse is primed and ready to help the team.