WEBB CITY, Mo. — If you’ve been keeping up with March Madness, you’ve probably seen a commercial featuring Mikaela Burgess.
Burgess went from playing in the NCAA Division II women’s basketball tournament with the Pittsburg State University Gorillas to now being featured on this year’s Big Dance.
How Burgess received the chance to be a part of the NCAA PSA for careers was she initially had a connection to the writer that wrote a previous piece on Burgess being a student teacher at Carl Junction’s elementary school. It captured Pitt State’s annual elementary game where a number of local schools and their students attend the game. That writer was involved with the casting call that later ended with a phone call from Pitt State athletic director Jim Johnson calling Burgess.
The ad campaign was originally set to air during last year’s NCAA national tournaments, but COVID-19 changed those plans. Burgess did receive the opportunity to fly out to New York, meet the other athletes mentioned in the ad and even NCAA president Mark Emmert.
So you can say Burgess has viewed the ad a number of times, but it’ll never get old.
“We’ll just have a game on and we’re eating, or we’re doing something, and then the music at the beginning of the commercial comes on, and starts playing, and everybody whips their heads and turns and looks,” Burgess laughed.
The video itself brings back a lot of good memories as it flashbacks to Pitt State’s run in 2016 advancing from the Sweet 16 to the Elite Eight. Burgess was one of Pitt State’s best three-point shooters and now she’s taking her shot at another career path, one that she’s dreamed of for quite some time.
Burgess directs and owns her own preschool at the Plaid Giraffe Preschool in Webb City. She said it best in a speech during her senior teaching project at Pitt State where she mentioned kids that she went to school with will one day drop their kids off to go to their dream jobs, while Burgess gets a chance to live hers.
“You can see that she’s a light that just shines and she has a passion for this, and I believe she’s doing what she loves,” Mikaela’s mother Stephanie Burgess said.
In the ad it reads that only two percent of college athletes go on to play professional sports. So then that begs the question, what happens next for the other 98 percent?
She may be one of the 98 percent of student-athletes that don’t go on to play professionally, but she’s the perfect example that you can shine elsewhere. Burgess shines as a high school assistant basketball coach with Carl Junction, she shines still on the basketball court in pick-up games, and at every stop Burgess always gives one hundred percent.
“Just her story, if you put the effort in and the time in, good things will happen for sure,” Carl Junction head girl’s basketball coach Brad Shorter said.
Shorter also happened to be Burgess’ head coach during her playing days at Webb City High School, where Shorter previously coached.
Even during Burgess’ days running a preschool, the game of basketball has never left her, it’s just evolved. She’s now playing the game of life, but she hasn’t lost sight of the game that’s given her so much.
“It’s hard to get the ball out of my hands, honestly, that doesn’t seem to want to go away,” Burgess said. “Coaching helps get that out of my system and I just love to be around the game.”
You could say the ad feature was Burgess’ one shining moment as playing basketball helped Burgess to reach her dream job. She’s just showing others that they can reach their own dream jobs outside of sports too.
“Just the specific part of her pumping her fists, cutting down the net is just surreal,” Pittsburg State University head women’s basketball coach Amanda Davied said. “I mean, it’s what every college athlete dreams of.”
You can read more on the NCAA PSA here.