TO watch Patrick Burke play leaves no surprise that he was most recently playing ice hockey before rededicating himself to basketball but the Goldfields Giants forward has quickly stepped back onto the court after almost 12 months out not missing a beat.
Burke graduated college from Dallas Baptist University last May and having already made the decision to focus on basketball rather than hockey earlier at Martin Arlington High School, he was suddenly at a loss what to do.
The 6’7 powerful forward thought life would naturally transition into a professional basketball career after he finished at college, but it didn’t happen and then he found himself craving being part of a team again having been part of one his whole life up to that point.
So when there were no basketball options, he decided to go back to hockey and enjoyed it especially to be part of a team environment again.
But then suddenly his hockey season ended and again Burke found himself out of a team environment and unsure what his next move would be.
What he did decide was that he wanted to become a professional basketball player, though, and not let his strong career with the Patriots at Dallas Baptist go to waste.
So the 23-year-old started working out on his basketball fitness and touch again and it turned out good timing when the calls started to came from the Giants enquiring if he could be the man to replace the just released Marquis Salmon on the eve of the 2019 SBL season.
Burke was on a plane to Kalgoorlie within three days of that first phone call, and then within days of arriving headed to Perth with his new Giants teammates for a season-opening double-header on the road against the Joondalup Wolves and Kalamunda Eastern Suns.
Immediately Burke didn’t appear a player who hadn’t played competitive basketball for 10 months, but with his physical style he did look like somebody with a hockey background.
That’s part of the reason that’s making him so tough already in his rookie professional season and after making a statement start with 24 points and eight rebounds on debut against the Wolves, he’s continued to prove his worth.
Burke is now averaging 19.8 points and 7.8 rebounds over the 10 games this season and he has no trouble admitting he’s living a dream.
“I’m living a dream to be honest. There is so many guys back home who would kill to be in this position and ever since I decided to be a college basketball player, this was always the next step,” Burke said.
“Always in the back of my mind was that I wanted to be a professional basketball player and I’m just glad that I made the right decision, or fixed the bad decision I made by not playing right out of college. Now to get this chance is better than I could have ever hoped.”
It’s a remarkable story that brought Burke to the Giants in what has been quite the eventful last 12 months for him since he graduated from college.
Once he left college, he wanted to play professional basketball and knew that would likely mean having to go overseas, but he wasn’t sure where that would take him.
But then when it didn’t happen immediately, he thought it might never happen and that’s why he went back to hockey.
However, when he received some advice he trusted that he was too good at basketball to not leave no stone unturned in attempting to play professionally, he got back to work on the floor and now he couldn’t be more grateful to be plying his trade in Kalgoorlie.
“It is a very interesting story. The hockey season had ended about a month prior and I had a sit down talk with a few people who I really trust and they were basically just urging me to get back to playing basketball because that’s what I had been doing the past 12 to 15 years of my life,” Burke said.
“I didn’t have an answer why I wasn’t so from there I just started training as soon as hockey season ended and I was in the gym from the next day shooting shots, and trying to get my touch back.
“Luckily I did it when I did because a month and-a-half or so later I heard from Frenchy and a few people from the Giants here giving me an offer. I feel like the timing was amazing with what happened and I’m just glad it was the Giants. I love this place already.”
While Burke clearly would make a natural hockey player and he did have a background on the ice and with a stick, the real reason he went back to the game was that he just wanted to be part of a team environment again.
So while he enjoyed it, it was basketball where he had ultimately dedicated himself to and now the call from the Giants has allowed him to return to his first sporting love.
“Hockey was more about getting back on a team, no matter the sport. When I graduated last May, I craved being on a team again. It’s just hard going from an athlete in a team environment for your entire life and then just cutting it off and being on your own,” he said.
“So I felt like I needed something to keep me preoccupied when I didn’t get a chance to play basketball anywhere. That’s when I started looking out for the hockey team having played that for 12 years of my life growing up.
“I had to quit when I chose to focus on basketball in high school, and that’s when I took my basketball seriously. So I had prior knowledge and skills in hockey and it wasn’t just like I’d be a hockey player today.
“I reached out to the hockey team to come and try out to see where it goes, and I played more than half the season with them and had a great experience, I loved the guys.
“I got that team feel back which I love and I feel like going to go and playing hockey so quick was about being on a team. Now that’s what this was about, I wanted to be back on a team and this is the perfect atmosphere for it.”
Even though he had been back working out basketball-wise for a bit over a month back home, Burke still hadn’t played a proper game of basketball for 10 months when he agreed to come to the Giants and arrived in Kalgoorlie.
He then had no warm up games either having come after the SBL Blitz and he was thrown in the deep end against the powerful Wolves at HBF Arena on that Saturday night of Round 1.
Burke doesn’t look like a player who has any rust and he has been pleasantly surprised with how quickly it’s all come back, although his body might not always agree.
“I was pleasantly surprised how quickly I got back into basketball shape and with my touch and everything. That first game I played out here caught me by surprise as well,” Burke said.
“I came out here and had a really good first game, but I really felt it the next day in that second game of our double-header.
“I could barely walk that day because my body wasn’t used to it and I was using muscles I hadn’t used in 10 months so it was just hard. But I was really surprised how quickly I got back into it and it’s been going really well here ever since, I’m loving it.”
Having gone through the college experience of big and vocal crowds, Burke is enjoying seeing the people of Kalgoorlie get back behind their Giants this season as they make a run for the playoffs for the first time since that dream run of 2015.
Burke certainly has noticed just how much having a noisy home crowd behind them helps when they play in Kalgoorlie where they’ve won four of five games so far in 2019.
“It seems like the whole town is behind us. It’s huge having such a big community who just gets behind basketball and love it, and loves our town,” he said.
“It reminds me of college games. I don’t know if everyone realises how big of a part they play in the game. Their energy that we feed off from them is huge and having this kind of crowd to play in front of is awesome.”
When Burke was approached about coming to Kalgoorlie and playing with the Giants, he knew nothing of what to expect. But he hardly had time to stew over the decision and now already it’s the best thing he ever did by saying yes.
“I had no prior knowledge whatsoever of this place. However, that didn’t stop me from packing up and leaving within three days of taking the first call,” Burke said.
“I just googled Kalgoorlie and the Giants, and I did have a guy I played against Jeylyn Sharpe who I talked to because he played here last year.
“I played against him all throughout college so I called him up and he had nothing but great things to say about the Giants and the program and Kalgoorlie. I trusted his opinion and decided I would do it pretty quickly.”