Phila. U.'s Burns eyes the next level

Posted: March 23, 2007

In a city that features six major college teams, Christian Burns of Philadelphia University has made a name for himself in Division II basketball over the last two seasons.

And the 6-foot-9 center no longer is way below the radar.

"He will earn a living playing basketball," said Rams coach Herb Magee, with the knowledge of a 41-year head coach with more than 800 career victories. "He will definitely be playing basketball at this time next year. He definitely has some unique skills."

On Tuesday, Burns received a major accolade when he was named Division II player of the year after averaging 21.7 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots for the 20-10 Rams.

"I was shocked," Burns said of the voting by college sports information directors.

"I knew I was a candidate, but we didn't go far in the NCAAs, and I thought that might play into it."

Tonight, the native of Hamilton, N.J., will be in uniform for the Division II All-Star Game at the Naismith Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. The Division II championship will be decided tomorrow at the same site.

Philadelphia U., a two-point loser to Bridgeport in the first round of the NCAA tournament's Northeast Regional, got lucky with Burns after he spent two seasons at Quinnipiac.

He had seen spot duty in 48 games over two seasons for the Bobcats before a rift with his coaches - "Things weren't going well," he said - resulted in his transferring to Philadelphia after his sophomore season.

Going from Division I to Division II, Burns immediately was eligible. He averaged 16.7 points and 9.8 rebounds as a junior. He translates as a potential power forward on the next level.

"That's the reason I transferred to Philadelphia University," said Burns, noting that he would have been required to sit out a season had he gone to another Division I school. "Plus, it's close to my hometown, and it's a great basketball school. The coaches here contacted me as soon as Quinnipiac gave me my release.

"It was the best decision I made in my life," said Burns, the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference player of the year. "Not only did Coach help me out as a player, but everything else went well."

Magee said the Rams found out about Burns from a coach in the Sonny Hill League.

"After that," Magee said, "we recruited him. He visited our campus and liked it."

Burns is living on campus and working toward a degree in business management. He also intends to make some money playing basketball.

The first Philadelphia University player to be named player of the year, Burns follows former Ram Tayron Thomas (Class of '06) as a first-team all-American. Thomas is playing in Portugal.

Burns said that he was a semester away from graduating, but that completing his education would have to wait.

"I'm looking to play pro ball," said the center, who hopes for an invitation to the NBA's pre-draft camp in Portsmouth, Va. "Maybe I'll play overseas."

At least one other person in the know finds Burns to be an intriguing prospect.

"He's a real diamond in the rough," said Jim Clibanoff, whose ClibHoops scouting report counts a number of NBA teams as subscribers. "Magee helped develop his basketball IQ. He's 245 pounds, and his speed, lateral movement, and agility for someone his size are outstanding. He's a football player. With the level he's played on, it's hard to gauge him. But I'm eager to see him step up against better players."


Contact staff writer Kevin Tatum

at 215-854-2583 or ktatum@phillynews.com.

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