Burns eyes front court competition

Incoming freshman forward Elijah Burns watched Notre Dame’s Elite 8 run with anticipation. Now Burns has turned his attention toward fitting into the Irish frontcourt after wrapping his senior season at Blair Academy.

Elijah Burns spent last month caught up in Notre Dame’s Elite 8 run like most fans.

The only difference is Burns, a forward at Blair Academy in Blairstown, N.J., hopes to take part in one of his own next season after signing with the Irish last fall. He’ll join small forward Matt Ryan and shooting guard Rex Pflueger as incoming freshmen.

Burns caught as many games as possible late in the season as Notre Dame captured an ACC championship then reached the Elite 8 before going down to top-ranked Kentucky.

“It was amazing,” Burns said. “Every game I watched either on my couch or at school. It was amazing. I was on the edge of my seat every game. I felt like I was there half the time. It was great to watch. There was so much emotion in each game and you could see that through watching. It made me really excited to get there next year and get to working with everybody.”

Watching his future teammates capture national headlines came as Burns finished his final run through the prep school ranks. He averaged about 13 points and six rebounds in helping Blair Academy to a 19-7 record.

Blair won the Mid-Atlantic Prep League title and finished runner-up with a loss in the state championship game.

Burns matched his own expectations in terms of growth and development as part of one of the top prep school programs on the East Coast. Blair has produced former college stars turned NBA regulars Luol Deng and Charlie Villanueva, among others.

“Confidence is going to be one of the biggest things,” Burns said. “I feel a lot more confident in my jumper and I’m able to get a rebound and go coast-to-coast, make a play for myself or for one of my teammates. I think that’s where I improved a lot as well as confidence, ball handling and shooting.”

Come June, Burns will enroll in summer school and mix into a Notre Dame frontcourt that returns Zach Auguste, Bonzie Colson, Austin Burgett, Austin Torres and Martin Geben.

Burns envisions competing right away.

“I think I have a pretty good relationship with everybody on the team,” he said. “For myself, all freshmen want to play. I want to play a lot of minutes my freshman year but if that doesn’t happen I’m still gonna be able to work in the practice facility and the practice gym to get everybody better. I want to play but I’m willing to do anything coach Brey asks me to do.”

One of the benefits of attending Blair is it gave the 6-foot-8, 235-pound prospect another year at the prep level. Auguste took a similar route to Notre Dame through New Hampton School. 

“I think it helps a ton in a lot of different areas,” Burns said. “I’m living three hours away from home right now. Notre Dame is 11 hours but even this three hours has helped me grow up a little more. I’m used to being away from home and doing my own laundry that regular freshmen have to get used to. On the court I got a ton stronger.

“My first year here I weighed 210 pounds. Now I’m 230, almost 235. I think that’s what helped a lot, training on the court and being able to play with other good players and being able to lead a team these last two years.”

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