From the court to the sidelines: Pittsburg State All-American Mikaela Burgess flourishing in first season as graduate assistant

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PITTSBURG, Kan. — Mikaela Burgess excelled as a basketball player at Webb City High School, and went on to do the same at Pittsburg State University. After graduating, she took on a new challenge: owning and operating her own preschool. But basketball was still something she wanted in her life, and now, she’s living the game all over again.

Burgess says, “Basketball has been a sport that has blessed me with a lot of different opportunities. It’s all good and I just try to take it in stride, stay humble, and enjoy everything about it.”

Basketball is still creating opportunities for Burgess. Three years after playing her last game at Pittsburg State, she’s back on the court as a graduate assistant for her former team.

Burgess says, “I’ve heard from a lot of people, like, ‘Welcome back home!’ That’s one of the coolest parts. I loved every bit of the four years that I got to play here, and now I’m loving every second that I get to coach on the sidelines. It’s a great community of people, a community that supported me four years as a player, and then supported me as I went off and did my own thing in the real world, so now to be back with those same people is a really special thing.”

Amanda Davied, Pittsburg State head coach, says, “It’s really cool to have someone go from player, to coaching with you and working with you, on a day-to-day, and you see their growth and how they want to give back. It’s really neat for me, with everything we’ve been through as player coach, and now to be teammates on this is really fun.”

Burgess is one of the best three point shooters in program history, and even earned NCAA Division II All-America honors in her time on the team. She’s demonstrated that she’s a player through and through, which means that trading in the basketball for the whistle has been a little bit difficult for her to adjust to.

Burgess says, “After our first couple games, I said, ‘My body is still not adjusting to the fact that I’m not lacing up.’ Like, I got the adrenaline, I’m nervous, amped up, but I said, ‘My body hasn’t figured out I’m not playing.’ So, I still get all those things, get all those feelings, but it’s really cool to channel that differently. It’s different to not be listening during a time-out, but it’s just a really cool experience to be the one teaching the girls to love the game that I love.”

Davied says, “She gets to be that testimony for the kids. It’s not just me talking about it. You can match what she did, but you better be in the gym a lot. That’s again where the testimony of what she had to do to become that player is just a great example for our players, to know what level they need to perform at on a daily basis,

She has a lot to say about the game of basketball. After all, she helped propel the Gorillas to an Elite Eight appearance in 2016. But the impact Burgess hopes to have as a coach goes much deeper than just the X’s and O’s.

Burgess says, “Something that’s really important to me is to teach the players hard lessons I learned, maybe teach them a little quicker than I learned it. But just to bring the leadership qualities, just to support them every day in practice, and help them to be the best player and person they can be. Ultimately, that’s what coaches always did for me so that’s what I try to do.”

Though she’s extremely busy, Burgess says she loves every second of what she does. She spends her mornings at her preschool, the Plaid Giraffe, and her afternoons and evenings with the team. Plus, when it’s all said and done, she’ll have a Master’s degree in educational leadership.

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