Junior Burrough (1992-95) is one of the all-time great Virginia men’s basketball players. He ranks sixth on the Cavaliers’ all-time scoring list (1,970) and fourth in rebounding (929). Burrough helped lead Virginia to three NCAA tournaments, including an Elite Eight in 1995 and Sweet 16 in 1993, and an NIT championship in 1992. Burrough is currently the boys basketball coach at Norfolk (Va.) Collegiate. Hoos Life caught up with Burrough to discuss his UVA and professional basketball careers, high school coaching, the competition in the ACC and his Mount Rushmore of Virginia basketball players.
Q. How are you and your family doing during the pandemic?
Burrough: We are doing well under the circumstances. We are safe and healthy, and with God’s grace my wife and I are using the time to really get to know and have in-depth conversations with our kids Justin (13) and Savannah (5). I’m truly blessed, but home schooling has been shaky because I’m the teacher most days!
Q. What do you enjoy most about coaching high school basketball and what lessons do you give your players that you learned during your playing career?
Burrough: I am having a blast coaching these kids. Norfolk Collegiate has really given me a chance to teach and honor the game I love. It’s a two-way street for me and I’m learning a lot from coaching as well.
Q. What are your fondest memories from your playing days at Virginia?
Burrough: The list of memories is countless to be honest. I played in the best conference in the country and I played against the best players with life-long friends. We went to battle knowing that if we stayed together and honored the game (meaning giving it your best no matter the outcome), we had a chance to win every night. That’s all you can ask of yourself and your teammates. We really loved playing together and it really helped us win a lot of games.
Q. Associate Head Coach Jason Williford was a teammate of yours from 1992-95. What type of player and teammate was Jason?
Burrough: Jason was our emotional leader and the backbone for our team. I’m not sure how much we would have been able to accomplish without him. He really tried to keep our heads in the moment. He loved playing and that energy helped me a lot on and off the court. He was our Draymond Green. Jason’s basketball IQ was the best. He was always talking and coaching us up, even from the bench!
Q. Who were the toughest competitors you played against in the ACC?
Burrough: The conference and competition at my position was unreal. I always thought any team we played was the team we wanted to beat. I never hated the other team. I just wanted to compete to the best of my ability and I wanted my teammates to do the same. That was the best part of playing at UVA. Yes, playing at Maryland, Virginia Tech, NC State, North Carolina or Duke were special, but so was playing at Georgia Tech or Clemson for a guy from Charlotte. I just tried to stay focused on what I could do to help my team win!
Q. You played high school basketball at West Charlotte (N.C.) and transferred to Oak Hill Academy (Va.) for your senior season. Can you describe your experience at Oak Hill?
Burrough: Leaving West Charlotte was a big deal. I had a great coach and teammates , but at the time I saw myself needing a different focus and challenge to see if I was good enough to play at the next level. I wasn’t sure until I got to Oak Hill to be honest. Coach (Steve) Smith was very helpful in getting my mind right. I’m grateful for my Oak Hill experience. It made me who I am!
Q. You enjoyed a long professional career, which included 61 games in the NBA with the Boston Celtics. What are your favorite memories from the NBA and your professional career overseas?
Burrough: My pro career still bothers me a little and I know sometimes it’s timing. I felt like my run in Boston was too short. I was lost and had no real guidance during my time there. No blame, but M.L. Carr wasn’t the right head coach for me and I couldn’t get past it looking back. The other part was fantastic once I realized how much basketball was not just a job. I got to see the world because of basketball. I’d still be playing if I could. I learned how to be the best version of myself overseas!
Q. What advice do you have for collegiate players embarking on professional careers?
Burrough: My advice to guys going pro varies. First, if you’re ready for basketball to be your job you must fully understand the pros and cons of the profession. Second, the right agent can make or break you in my opinion. Third, don’t let the money get in the way of what’s real in your life like family, faith or humble excellence. Fourth, make sure everyone around you understands you are a brand of one. We didn’t all go pro. I did and I needed support, not more stress.
Q. What’s your affiliation with Nike Grass Roots Basketball?
Burrough: Grass Roots has been a lifeline for me. Being around the kids on the highest level really gives me a fantastic view on the next group of professional players. The coaches you work with and, of course, the Nike culture have made it a great marriage for me. It’s an honor to work with them!
Q. What did you like most about the 2018-19 Virginia National Championship team?
Burrough: I love everything about that championship team. They had every chance to quit or fall apart, but they stayed together through it all. It took a major game-winning play from a different kid every game. That says a lot about the coaches and players that they can come back from losing to a No. 16 seed the previous year, show true grit and battle back to win it all!
Q. What is your relationship with Coach Bennett and the current staff?
Burrough: I am a big fan of this current staff. Coach Bennett has been more than kind and welcoming to me. More importantly, Coach Bennett and his staff are teaching the game the right way and giving my school a real chance to win games. They are also teaching young boys how to be men. Coach Willy (Williford) is one of my best friends and all of the other coaches always have time to talk basketball and life which I believe is awesome.
Q. Who is on your Mount Rushmore of Virginia basketball players?
Burrough: This is really tough because I believe winning means a lot over just personal statistics. Ralph (Sampson) is always first. Bryant Stith might be the best guy ever and was unreal as a player. Malcolm (Brogdon) was just a joy to watch at UVA and now in the NBA. I can’t forget myself. I definitely think I’ve been the second best big to ever play at UVA. My Rushmore has a women’s player. Dawn Staley was the best player on the women’s side I had seen because it wasn’t just one thing with her. She is a true all-time great. I know it’s only four on Rushmore, but those are the five players I’ve seen that were the best on Grounds.
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