After she finished one of the best high school basketball careers in Mecklenburg County history, for a boy or girl, Butler High’s Cierra Burdick went to play for Pat Summitt at Tennessee.
After leaving Tennessee, Burdick landed on the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, where she is averaging 2.7 points and 2.1 rebounds as a rookie.
At Tennessee, Burdick developed a close relationship with Summitt, who passed away this week after a long battle with early onset dementia. Summitt was 64.
Before her coach passed, Burdick left her pro team to fly hurriedly to Tennessee to sit by her coach’s side. In a touching letter she wrote for the Washington Post, Burdick described the visit and their relationship.
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“I took a glance at her,” Burdick wrote. “Her face was strong; her hair was long. I rested my head on her bedside and began to cry. I knew she would have wanted me to be strong, but my emotions were high. I took a minute and then proceeded to talk to her. With my hand on her arm, I let her know how grateful I was to be a part of her program. I thanked her for taking my family and me in as her own. I thanked her for paving the way for the Lady Vols and for women’s basketball. I thanked her for helping me grow as a player, as a person.”
▪ In high school, Burdick led Butler to its first N.C. 4A state title in 2010. A 6-2 forward, she averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds as a high school senior. She was named Gatorade N.C. player of the year, a Parade All-American and shared N.C. Associated Press player of the year with Gastonia Forestview’s Shannon Smith.