Standing out is pretty easy for D.J. Burns in almost every part of his life.
He’s 6-8, weighs nearly 230 pounds and wears a size 15 shoe. He has an excellent GPA entering his sophomore year at Rock Hill (SC) York Prep. He plays four different instruments, including saxophone.
To stand out on the basketball court, however, Burns has gone retro.
“I’m more of a back-to-the-basket post player,” said Burns. “It’s kind of rare to find one now because everyone wants to be on the perimeter shooting threes. I’d rather do something where I could differentiate myself and not be like everyone else. If I need to, I can do other things, but I’d rather have my back to the basket.”
Burns’s style was a perfect match for what the Georgia Stars 15U needed this summer on the Nike circuit. Already featuring a high-major point guard in sophomore Ashton Hagans and a high-major wing in Christian Brown, the Stars needed someone to anchor the middle. So they called on Burns.
“(Playing in the post) is definitely a lost art,” said Georgia Stars head coach Chris Williams. “It’s admirable that D.J. wants to play that way. The other kids we have complemented him well.”
Over the summer, Burns picked up offers from Western Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Georgia, Davidson and Tulane. He’s recently received interest from Stanford, Wake Forest and North Carolina.
“I think my summer was great,” Burns said. “It was kind of rough, at first, going to Georgia and starting off with a new team. There were new faces to get used to, but once we got that chemistry built I feel like it was a great season.”
In addition to playing with a new team, the quality of competition Burns faced on a daily basis served as a wake-up call.
“It was the best competition I’ve ever played against,” he explained. “Playing on Nike('s circuit) made me work harder to get better. I learned that it’s not about playing to the level of the competition, it’s about playing to my abilities.”
When they weren’t playing against great competition on the AAU circuit, Williams and Burns worked on his weight and conditioning. He’s dropped 18 pounds since the end of his freshman season.
“I was drinking a lot of Sprite,” Burns said with a laugh. “... every day, all the time. Now, I’m eating better, I sometimes go without meat and I haven’t had a soda since last school year. It’s helping me with my conditioning and getting up and down the court.
Added Williams: “He only needs to lose a few more pounds. He just has to get in better shape so he can get up the floor quicker.”
North Carolina watched Burns and the Georgia Stars 15U during the final two July evaluation periods. Roy Williams caught one of the Stars’ games during a tournament in Allatoona, Ga. and assistant coach C.B. McGrath tracked nearly all of their games during a tournament in Orlando.
“They like D.J.,” Chris Williams said of UNC. “(Assistant coach) C.B. (McGrath) said he likes how he can score and pass the ball to be that big. He did acknowledge that he’s not the most athletic kid, but he does get from point A to point B and does what he needs to do.”
The Tar Heels’ interest is certainly welcomed by Burns, who admitted he grew up following Carolina.
“I’ve always been a UNC fan, that’s been my dream school growing up,” Burns said. “They’ve produced a lot of great players; they have great training and great coaches starting out with Coach Dean (Smith). I feel like that’d be a great place to grow or expand whether you’re a regular student or a player.”
Burns has unofficial visits scheduled to Florida State, Georgia and Louisville this fall.
Additional notes: Burns is the nephew of former UNC running back Ronnie McGill… His mother is a middle school assistant principal in York, S.C.… Both of his parents are graduates of South Carolina State University… Both of his parents played collegiate sports… His father played football at SCSU and was in the CFL for one year… His mother played basketball at SCSU.