By James Butler
MCDONOUGH Ga. – When Creekside Christian Academy’s Qui’Yante Burroughs helped the Cougars’ retain their GICAA Division I-AA Championship this past basketball season, the accomplishment was neither a beginning nor an endpoint for the Patterson, New Jersey native.
Instead, it was just one more stop along the road of life and basketball that the rising-senior is traversing. Case in point, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound shooting guard is splitting his time on the basketball court this spring between his Creekside team and his AAU squad, NJ Elite.
Burroughs has played for NJ Elite for several years now, and has competed in several tournaments for them this season, including participating in the famed Boo Williams Tourney in Virginia.
“It was a good run,” Burroughs, who starts for the New Jersey-based team, said of the play at Boo Williams. “Competitive.”
Later this spring, Burroughs will lace up with Creekside at AAU tournaments and team camps, playing against some of the top competition from the Southeast, before returning to New Jersey for a visit over the summer.
While Burroughs may be looking forward to his visit home, he realizes the harsh nature of his hometown is why his mother decided to move to Georgia this school year.
“Living in Patterson, it’s a really tough city,” Burroughs said. “I think that’s where I get my game from, being mentally tough as well. That city’s really harsh. You’re playing on the court, and I don’t even think it’s street ball, it’s our own style of basketball. If you want to stay on that court, you got to be tough. No crying, there’s no whining, nothing.
“My mom wanted me to be in a better environment. […] Moving down here was for a better environment for my future, and I think that it’s working out, even though leaving Patterson was really sad. I will always represent that city. That’s my hometown. I love it. I’m not afraid to say where I came from.”
Burroughs spent his first two years of high school at Wayne, NJ’s DePaul Catholic — where he was primarily known for his defensive abilities — before transferring to nearby Queen of Peace High School. Burroughs played summer and fall ball with Queen of Peace, but did not as a junior because of his move to Georgia.
“My first two years at DePaul Catholic, it was a humbling experience,” Burroughs said. “I didn’t play a lot. I wasn’t really into the ‘team’ as I am now with my team at Creekside. It was a lot of trials and tribulations I went through at DePaul Catholic. It humbled me real good.”
And getting away was even better for him.
“Leaving that school and going to Queen of Peace, I met up with a good coaching staff. One of my AAU coaches, Jarel Lowery, he coached at Queen of Peace. He brought me over and I met [head coach] Chris Boyce [and his staff]. A lot of them are great coaches.”
Burroughs credits the coaches at Queen of Peace for preparing him for what he would face at Creekside, since by the time he would suit up for the McDonough school, the Cougars’ basketball season would already be underway.
“Coming down here, I think me getting to know the coaches was an easier step because of the [mental toughness I acquired] with coach Boyce and Jarel,” Burroughs said. “I think that helped me out because a lot of players wouldn’t adapt that quickly to coaches or players when they transfer to schools.
“At Creekside I really didn’t know my role until the end [stretch] of the season before we went to the playoffs. I came late and the team was already comfortable. Me being the new kid on the block, I didn’t know how to play with them.”
Burroughs took to the coaching, and he and his Creekside teammates eventually put their egos aside and came together. They also overcame the adversity brought along by injuries, including an ankle injury that Burroughs suffered in his first game with the Cougars which ultimately sidelined him for about a month.
Despite playing in only a dozen or so games, and not being eligible to be named all-region because of the low number of games played, Burroughs was named Honorable Mention All-State.
GARDEN STATE OF MIND
Burroughs is looking forward to his senior season with the Cougars, and feels that despite losing key seniors, Creekside basketball is a big family. Still, despite his new birth in the South, his basketball DNA is purely New Jersey. That is something he says Cougars’ head coach Burton Uwarow, who used to coach at New Jersey powerhouse St. Anthony, can appreciate.
“He knows where I came from,” Burroughs said. “He knows how we play ball there. […] It made me a tougher player, not just physically, but mentally too. In New Jersey it’s a fast-paced game because of all of the good guards that come out of there, Isaiah Briscoe, Trevon Duval, and all of them. It made me tougher playing against [fast competition]. I think that helped me this year at Creekside.”
Burroughs counts his brother and Delaware State rising-senior DeAndre Haywood, rising Robert Morris senior Kavon Stewart, and former DePaul Catholic standout Juwuan Carter as the three best players he has played against.
As an elementary age student he also got the chance to workout against Briscoe, who by then was already a known quantity on the middle school grassroots basketball circuit.
“He played for Playaz Basketball Club,” Burroughs said of Briscoe. “My brother played with them as well. […] My brother would always make me play against people who were way older than me. I didn’t even match up with him a lot. I probably did it once or twice and he scored on me easily. Playing against him, it was a real glare in the eyes. He’s a tough player.”
Burroughs is continuing to hone his game. Earlier this spring at a Hoop Group event in Neptune City, NJ, he had a double-double against a team representing Hoop Heaven.
“I find myself as a playmaker,” Burroughs said. “I wouldn’t say I’m just a dynamic scorer. I make plays for teammates, but being in the gym after winning a state championship, I think that I have improved on my ball handling and my jump shooting.
“Now, I can make plays for myself. It’s harder for a defender to know what I’m doing. I can easily attack the basket and kick it out to my [teammates]. [Defenders] may back off and I may pull up. It’s really good to feel like that because it’s not like I’m one dimensional.”
Based on the strength of his AAU play over the last few seasons, Burroughs is being recruited by Northeastern schools Rider University and Delaware. His brother being a standout at Delaware State has also put him on the Hornets’ recruiting radar.
“I want to go mid-major D-I or low-major,” Burroughs said. “I think that’s where I probably fit right now. I don’t know where I would fit later.”
Burroughs knows he still has some time to garner more interest and would consider staying in the South if schools like Georgia Southern and Georgia State showed interest. No matter what college Burroughs ends up at, one thing is for sure. By the time he gets there he will have arrived on a road most freshmen have not traveled, and he will be a better player and person because of it.