ROCKFORD – East senior guard Chris Burnell is our WREX Athlete of the Week. He’s closing in on the 57-year-old East scoring record held by Skip Thoren. Burnell can fill it up at any time, but he also takes on a strong leadership role.
“I just try to be a mentor to the rest of them,” Burnell said.
East is off to an undefeated start this season, sitting alone atop the NIC-10 standings. E-Rabs’ coach Roy Sackmaster knows he can count on Burnell during clutch situations.
“What Chris has in terms of that killer instinct has nothing to do with me,” Sackmaster said. “I think that Chris was just born a winner.”
But his senior year is missing someone important. Burnell’s good friend and former teammate Greg Hill was shot and killed more than two years ago, and Chris carries Hill’s memory with him at all times.
“If I don’t feel like doing anyhting, I just think about him,” Burnell said. “All he knew was work. He’s the one who wanted to be better than everyone, everyday. That’s what we talk about with being great.”
For Burnell, every point he scores has a purpose.
“I’m just giving him my all,” Burnell said. “I talk to him all the time and I know I’m living through him. His journey is still here on earth and it’ll still keep going. No matter where I go, I’ll keep giving it my all.”
While breaking the school’s scoring record will be nice, honoring Hill’s memory by playing winning basketball in his name is what makes Burnell’s senior season that much more special.