Sophomore scorer excels on well-balanced team

With talk going around that Concord could have an uncharacteristically down season on the basketball court after losing three starters, Connor Burchfield wanted to prove he could make an impact for the Spiders.

The soft-spoken sophomore embraced his larger role this year and has proven just that.

"He's got the knack for scoring," said Concord coach Scott Brewer. "He plays hard, he has a nose for the basket."

Burchfield has had a breakout season for his team, averaging more than 19 points a game to lead the Spiders to a perfect 16-0 start, including a 10-0 record in South Piedmont Conference play.

The 16-year-old can take over games - he scored 27 points against Mount Pleasant and a career-high 33 against Northwest Cabarrus - with his 3-point shooting and his ability to get to the basket and earn a trip to the free-throw line.

"That's impressive for a sophomore," Brewer said. "That's as many points as I've ever had a sophomore score."

Burchfield credits the work he put in during the offseason for his improvement. Besides playing AAU basketball with the CP3 All-Stars, he would go to the gym to get shots in and lift often.

"It's definitely nice to have some success out there, to see your work pay off," said the 6-foot-3, 160-pounder.

Burchfield also credits his teammates for his performance.

"We have guys setting screens, keeping me open, " he said. "Guys are making passes to help me get open shots."

Senior Kendall Knorr, who committed to Navy, and junior Darren Black have also been big for the Spiders, averaging 15 and 17 points, respectively. Without those two, Burchfield said, he couldn't have the spacing that has allowed him to be proficient from the perimeter.

"They're great players and draw some of the better defenders," he said. "Having them makes it easier for me to score."

Brewer said the chemistry his team has developed has allowed them to excel.

"The best part about those kids is that they're not selfish," said Brewer. "They've bought into what we're doing and play together as a team."

Burchfield said sharing the ball and not having to rely on one player to carry most of the scoring load has helped the Spiders.

"Any one of us can have a big night," he said. "That makes us really hard to guard."

He said forwards Reid Aube, B.J. Beecher and Jerry Burke have impressed him with their play.

Burchfield said his time on the varsity team as a freshman has also been key in his success.

"Being on the team last year, getting that experience at the varsity level definitely has helped me out," he explained. "Getting used to the speed of the game was big."

Brewer said cases like Burchfield's are why he goes by the philosophy of keeping the players who have the best chance of making an impact on varsity, regardless of seniority.

"I traditionally pull the string and put young kids who can help you win. I don't keep juniors and seniors around very much that aren't contributing," said Brewer. "And that's how you stay consistent."

Although he's happy with how the year's going, Burchfield said, he wants to work on limiting his turnovers and getting stronger.

He hopes his Spiders can finish conference play strong to claim the program's seventh consecutive SPC title. After that, Burchfield hopes to compete for a state title.

Brewer said his team will need to stay focused and hungry - not satisfied by their recent success - to be in consideration.

"Special moments are made from special opportunities, and they've got a special opportunity right now," he said.

Burchfield admits regardless of what happens the rest of the way, he will remember how gratifying this season has been for his Spiders.

"We had a lot of people who doubted us, who thought this was going to be a rebuilding year for us," he said. "I think we've proven those people wrong."