Friday, March 26, 2010

Butler's Burdick, Forestview's Smith and Kinston's Bullock win NC AP state players of the year awards

Cierra Burdick and Shannon Smith each ended their seasons the same way. Two weeks after hoisting a state championship trophy, they're the 2009-10 Associated Press women's prep basketball co-players of the year for North Carolina.

Matthews Butler's Burdick and Gastonia Forestview's Smith each earned nine of a possible 22 votes from sports writers across the state in results released Friday. Kernersville McGuinness' Megan Buckland was third with four votes after helping her team win its fifth straight state championship.

Burdick, a junior guard, who averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds to help Butler win the Class 4-A championship. She has committed to Tennessee.

"I wasn't looking at it as pressure," Burdick said. "It was more motivation that you want to prove to everybody else that you're Tennessee-bound and you're worthy of it. ... It can be tough because everybody expects you to have a perfect game every day, but you've just got to live up to your own expectations."

Burdick was the most valuable player of the 4-A final, scoring 28 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in the 26-point romp against previously unbeaten Morrisville Green Hope.

"All these awards and accolades are great," Burdick said. "But nothing's better than being able to say you won a state championship."

Smith is a senior guard who averaged 23 points and seven assists to help Forestview win the 3-A title. A two-time Gaston Gazette area player of the year, Smith has signed with North Carolina _ another high-profile destination that can create outside pressure to live up to expectations.

"I just try to play my game regardless of what people are saying," Smith said. "I'm too focused to think about that kind of stuff."

Like Burdick, Smith was the MVP of her team's championship victory. She had 26 points in the 62-55 win against South Central Pitt, which allowed Forestview to win the title that slipped away the previous season.

That capped a playoff run in which she averaged 30 points per game, including a 41-point performance in the second round.

"I think we were more focused than before," Smith said. "We had good chemistry, we all got along, we all hung out and were like sisters _ like family."

Kinston's Bullock wins mens award

Reggie Bullock eventually got used to all the attention.

He routinely encountered autograph seekers and heard squeals of delight from fans of opposing schools when he walked into the gym for games. Nevermind the fact that the Kinston star knew everyone was watching his every move.

It just comes with having the skill to play at storied North Carolina, earn a spot in the McDonald's All-American game - and become the 2009-10 Associated Press men's prep basketball player of the year for the state.

"I just stayed humble with it," Bullock said. "I didn't want to try to let it get too overwhelming and be like, 'Yeah, I'm that dude.' I tried to stay low-profile when I walked in the gym."

After leading Kinston to a second state title in three seasons, Bullock was the runaway choice by earning 17 of a possible 22 votes from sports writers across the state in results released Friday. The 6-foot-7 senior guard averaged 25 points and 11 rebounds to make the AP All-State team for a third straight season.

Kernersville McGuinness' Aaron Toomey was second with three votes after averaging 29 points per game.

Kinston coach Wells Gulledge said Bullock was a special player who was easy to coach and a great teammate. As for his ability, well, he's got plenty of that, too - particularly when it comes to his shooting stroke.

"When it's on, it's heavenly," Gulledge said. "It's a God-given ability he has and he shoots it with such ease."

Gulledge also said Bullock easily handled all the attention that came with his status as one of the nation's top recruits, joking that Bullock was the mayor of Kinston.

"People would come up yelling in your face, 'Oh my God, it's Reggie Bullock!'" Bullock said. "My teammates would be laughing. (Fans) would come up and say, 'Can you dunk for me? Can you shoot a 3 for me?' I'm just like, 'I'm going to play my game.'"

Bullock finished second for AP player of the year in North Carolina last season to John Wall, who is now playing for Kentucky.

Bullock verbally committed to play for Roy Williams' Tar Heels as a sophomore. He'll be part of a heralded recruiting class that includes Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall, a group that will face pressure to help the program regroup after this season's struggles. The class should offer some of the perimeter depth and outside shooting this year's team sorely lacked.

"I know the recruiting class coming in, we're going to bring what they needed to the plate," Bullock said. "We're going to go into practice and work hard and try to turn things around. ... I believe we're all pieces to the puzzle and hopefully we can get it done next year."

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