Amani Burke (3) drives to the basket against Kent State in the Convocation Center on January 14, 2017. (Matt Starkey | File)
When Amani Burke scored a career-high 21 points against Miami last season, former player Quiera Lampkins wanted to emphasize that she and Burke were different players.
As Burke went through her freshman season, one in which she averaged 7.3 points per game, murmurs of her being Lampkins’ second act were frequent. Both players are skilled at driving to the hoop and finishing at the rim, so that was the primary reason for the comparison.
Burke doesn’t want to compare herself to Lampkins, though. And she shouldn’t, what with the resume she has. Last season, Burke earned a spot on the Mid-American Conference All-Freshman team.
A better shooter and facilitator than Lampkins, Burke was slated to be Ohio’s future, the team’s top player going forward.
Well, the future has arrived.
A sophomore this season, Burke will be expected to lead. But after coming off an impressive freshman year, she is still learning.
“I kind of am being put in this captain, leadership role and it’s kind of not being introduced to me,” Burke said. “It’s kind of just like, ‘You’re in it.’”
Burke came off the bench last season, but played 17.9 minutes per game. Despite former player Hannah Boesinger having 12 starts last season, Burke had the most minutes of any player who wasn’t a consistent starter.
This season, though, she’ll be starting every game.
“She’s going to have more focus on her I think this year,” junior guard Dominique Doseck said. “She’s just going to have to learn. I think she can handle it, though.”
With Lampkins in front of her last season, teams didn’t focus on Burke as much. She had the luxury of playing behind Lampkins, the No. 2 scorer in program history.
Now, though, she’s going to be what opponents hone in on during film sessions. Doseck doesn’t know if teams will try to double team Burke. Perhaps they will early, but then they’ll realize something.
Burke is too good of a passer.
“Regardless if you throw a double team at her, you’re not going to win,” Doseck said. “She’s going to find the open person, and we’re still going to score.”
Though Burke’s learning how to lead every day, she’s not doing so alone. Doseck and redshirt senior guard Taylor Agler have helped her. They know Burke will have the ball a lot, so they’ve tried to keep her calm.
Burke said that she’s sometimes too critical of herself. So, when she needs to hear that she’s doing OK, she knows Doseck and Agler will be there for her.
“They’re definitely helpful as teammates, but more like friends, too,” Burke said.
Burke is a leader, but she’s not the only one on the team. Agler is the only senior on the team, and she said she’s learning how to lead, too.
“As much as I want to say that I give her this amazing wisdom, I think we both help each other and just try to pick each other up,” Agler said.
Burke won’t have to carry a program that lost five seniors after last season. She’s going to have help.
When Burke came in as a freshman, the Bobcats knew she’d be good – and she was.
Now, though, she’s taking on a larger role, one that holds more responsibility.
When Burke went into assistant coach Mary Evans’ office before the new season, she talked with Evans about taking on the leadership role. Evans told Burke that becoming a leader was her choice. Burke knew it was going to be hard, but she was confident.
She was ready to lead.
“I know it’s not going to be easy every day, but so far it’s been fun,” Burke said.