Ready to make things happen

The expectations for Dwight Burke to perform have been there for a while. The senior center is not only aware of them, he has those same expectations for himself.

Ask Dwight Burke what is expected out of him this season and he will sternly respond with the same answer you would hear from Marquette basketball fans around the country:

"Big things," Burke said. "I've put it on myself to make sure big things happen and so far I've done a pretty good job of that. I'm ready to get out there and make something happen. We all are."

Burke, a 6'8" 250-pound forward/center from Brooklyn, enters his fourth and final season with the Golden Eagles with huge expectations on his shoulders. Last season, Burke averaged only 2.5 points and 2.9 rebounds a game. He appeared in all 35 games, starting 17.

Despite the low averages from last year, Burke did show signs of promise to the blue and gold faithful. In a game against Utah Valley State last November, Burke tallied 12 points and 8 rebounds in 24 minutes. The following month against in-state rival Wisconsin, he scored 12 points and grabbed 9 boards in 17 minutes.

"He knows he has to deliver," senior guard Wesley Matthews said. "This is his last year, too. He's definitely had moments were we've said, ‘Yes, this is what we've been waiting for.' Like anybody else, he's had his ups and his downs, but he's getting it. I think that sense of urgency, that fire, is starting to come out, and we need it."

Burke also came up big for the Golden Eagles down the stretch last season. On March 1st, in a game against Georgetown, he dropped an electrifying put-back dunk with 31 seconds remaining to give Marquette a two-point lead, putting them in position to pull off an apparent upset. (Marquette later went to overtime on a controversial play and lost.) Later that month, in the last game of the regular-season, Burke grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds against Big East foe Pittsburgh.

It is performance like those that both the fans and the players routinely expect out of Dwight Burke this season.

"Most importantly, he is going to have to be somebody that is consistent," senior guard Jerel McNeal said. "He is going to have to be somebody we can depend on on a night-in-night-out basis. We have to know he is going to come out, defend, rebound, catch and finish when we need him to."

To even be the subject of such high expectations, Burke had to take major steps from the beginning of his career until now. During his freshman and sophomore seasons, he averaged less than one point and less than two rebounds per game. He also clocked in less than nine minutes a game.

Last year, during his junior season, Burke upped his minutes per game average to 11.8 and is looking to take it even higher during his senior campaign.

"I can't wait to get out there and make things happen," Burke said. "It's my last year and I want to go out on top. I need to make things happen."

Burke's teammates think he is prepared to fulfill his lofty expectations.

"He's worked incredibly hard during the offseason," senior guard Dominic James said. "I feel like his progression day-to-day has been off the charts. That credit goes to him and the work he has put in during the offseason. He has worked hard to put himself in a good position."

Burke hopes his hard work over the last four years not only benefits his team for his senior season, but also hopes it translates to turning basketball into a career in the future.

"We have to see how the year plays out first, but I want to continue playing after college is over," Burke said. "Basketball is my main focus, so we will see how this year goes and see how things play out."

Without a doubt, significant contributions from Dwight Burke are essential to this Marquette squad's success. He will have to elevate his game in pivotal situations, likely against some of the best centers in the country, to take Golden Eagles deep into March.

However, until then, Golden Eagles fans everywhere will be waiting anxiously, hoping Burke can bring the program "big things."

Patrick Kurish is a junior majoring in journalism.

This is the fourth of six feature articles on leading up to Marquette Madness. Check back tomorrow as Marco Radenkovich catches up with Lazar Hayward.

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