UNION — Angela Burke, Union County High School’s first-year head basketball coach recently guided her Lady Jackets to a history-making Region III-AAA championship and she isn’t done yet.
“My goal with them for the first year was to go beyond what I was told they did last year, a third place region finish and making it to the second round of playoffs,” Burke said. “I said, ‘We’re going to do better than that this year. We’re gonna fight to keep moving and make it to the State Championship.’”
On Tuesday night, the Lady Jackets took care of the first order of business, soundly defeating Clinton en-route to a region title. Now they’re aiming for State and will host the first round of playoffs on Monday.
Although Burke inherited a class full of talent at Union County, earning the players’ trust and implementing a system so quickly is impressive. For her efforts, Burke was named Region III-AAA Coach of the Year on Friday.
“The girls bought into the program, they didn’t fight it,” Burke said. “I always tell them, ‘If you do what we ask you to do and it’s our mistake we’ll correct it, just be coachable and have fun,’ and that’s what they do.”
The Lady Jackets are often at a height disadvantage in the post area but what is lacking in size is made up for with skill and determination.
“They compensate by being good shooters and by working the defense until it breaks down,” said Burke. “We work with the post players so much that they have developed some good post moves that work even if they’re matched up against someone taller and they know if its not there they can kick it out. Its not all about the posts, or all about the guards, it’s about finding the open shot. All five girls are able to score offensively so I think that makes them a bigger threat.”
Before accepting the position at UCHS, Burke served as assistant girls varsity basketball coach and head JV coach at Westside High School in Anderson. She attended several basketball camps and clinics with Head Coach Jackie Roberts before the time was right to take a head coaching position of her own.
“I probably did a little bit more than a typical JV coach because I knew that eventually I wanted to be a head coach,” said Burke. “I have two daughters (Angela and Ashley) and I knew that with both of them still in school and playing sports, I couldn’t spend the time I needed to spend developing a program. So when my youngest daughter graduated, I graduated too.”
During her 11-year stint at Westside, Burke worked closely with Roberts and models many of her former colleague’s mannerisms on the court today.
“I mimic a lot of what she did because I really admired her teaching ability,” said Burke. “I think that I’m very demanding but at the same time I’m complimenting and encouraging. For instance, I’ll tell the girls, ‘If you get off one foot off the floor, try to go one and a half.’ I try to encourage them to go a step further than they already do and they accept that challenge, they do.”
Burke said Roberts’ design wasn’t just to develop girls into basketball players, though.
“Once you became a part of that program you were a part of that program for 365 days a year, not just from November to February,” she noted. “She set up study programs, checked grades, she was really involved with the girls all year.”
Burke aspires to implement the same values into Union County High School as well as generate an interest in girls basketball among the Yellow Jackets of the future.
“I want to develop the program from the elementary schools all the way up,” Burke declared. “I went to the Recreation Department and saw a couple little girls on the boys teams and I thought, ‘We’re not there yet, but hopefully we can get to the point soon that we’ll have some all-girls teams at that age level.’ We need to get these young ladies interested in basketball so we can keep this program going strong.”