Brooke Burke signs to play basketball at Pacific University

Benny Westcott

Brooke Burke, whom Head Sweet Home Girls Basketball Coach Michelle Knight calls “arguably the best women’s basketball player in the school’s history, will play college ball at NCAA Division III Pacific University.

Burke made that announcement at a signing ceremony at the high school gym on Friday, April 7.

This season Pacific made it to the championship of the Northwest Conference tournament, finishing the year at 19-8.

Sweet Home Athletic Director Dan Tow called Burke a “great student” and “really hard worker” and said “she’ll do well in the future.”

Knight chimed in to say “Pacific University is gaining an amazing student, an amazing athlete and an outstanding individual,” and added that she is looking forward to watching Burke “soar” at the next level.

The basketballer certainly soared as a Husky. Burke finished her career with 1,496 points, the most ever for a Sweet Home girl. (She accomplished this despite one COVID-shortened year in which Sweet Home played only 14 games instead of its typical 24).

Burke also holds the record for most points in a single game, scoring 39 in a win against Cottage Grove on Dec. 2.

The previous single game scoring record was 37 points, set by Sally Aiello during the 1997-98 season. As a junior, Burke helped lead the Huskies to their first playoff appearance in 30 years.

“Brooke came into her freshman year with huge goals and shattered them one by one,” Knight said.

The coach typically only allows seniors to be team captain, but Burke broke that tradition by taking on the role as a junior (she was a captain her senior year as well).

Taking initiative, Burke herself asked Knight if she could become captain her junior year.

“She had the reasons listed and I spoke to my other coaches and we agreed that it would be the right decision,” Knight recalled.

“And it was. Brooke is an outstanding leader. She leads by example, works harder than anyone in the room, is always the first to arrive and the last to leave.”

That work ethic is evident not only in Burke’s attention to detail in practicing various basketball moves and shots, but also in the star player’s focus on gym janitorial work, an unusual passion for a player to exhibit. Burke sweeps the gym floor before every practice and game, Knight said.

“In addition to her accolades as a player, Brooke is just a great person,” Knight said. “She is kind, giving, and has more school spirit than I’ve seen in years. She has worked hard for every single thing that she has earned and deserves every single second of success that comes her way.”

Burke said that academics took the biggest priority in her college decision.

Pacific has a “really good” science program, she said, and she intends to major in kinesiology. After undergrad she wants to attend graduate school to get a doctorate in chiropractics and open a practice in Sweet Home.

“In the long run, my schooling is going to take me further than basketball will,” Burke said. “I love basketball so much, but at the end of the day, that’s not what matters completely.”

In addition to Pacific she also looked at Linfield, George Fox, Linn-Benton and Umpqua community colleges, and Oregon State as a backup school in case “no school wanted me to play basketball for them.”

But she said that “at the end of the day, I feel like Pacific had everything for me. There were no boxes that were left unchecked.

“The school is just super pretty, and on all my visits I got such a good vibe from it.

“I’ve never had a moment where I’ve been like ‘I don’t know if I want to go there.’ I’ve never doubted it for one second.”

From a basketball perspective, Burke said she was drawn to the success of Pacific’s program and a coaching staff that “truly want[s] what’s best for me.” She also liked the team dynamic she saw.

“Watching their practices and pregame [rituals], they are genuinely happy for their teammates,” Burke said. “They’re such an unselfish team, and I really wanted to be in an environment like that.”

For a player as dedicated as Burke, it seemed like ending her basketball career after high school was never really an option.

“I don’t think I could function without basketball,” she said. “I haven’t stopped getting workouts in. I took, like, two weeks off after basketball season because I’m like, ‘I need to rest,’ and with softball starting [she plays shortstop for Sweet Home].

“But after that I just really couldn’t [stop playing]. So I couldn’t imagine not playing after high school.”

Burke noted it would be cool to hit 1,000 career points in college like she did in high school. But she doesn’t think she’ll be a starter for Pacific right away, which she deems not necessarily a bad thing.

“In college everybody’s good,” she explained.

“Everyone’s just like me. There’s going to be girls who are bigger than me who’ve lifted weights for longer. So even if I don’t get much playing time my freshman season, I feel like I’m just going to learn so much.

“Honestly, any role the coach puts me in, I’m probably just going to take advantage of it, because I’m there for a reason.”

From an X’s and O’s standpoint, she said “I definitely want to expand my off-the-ball game in college. Working more of the wing, catch and shoot. It’s definitely what I think I’m going to find more success at.”

Before the 2023-24 season, Burke intends on staying in shape with running, as well as working on deeper three-point shots because the college three-point line is farther away from the hoop than the high school boundary.

Other areas of emphasis will be catching and shooting, moving off the ball with off-ball screens, and change of speed.

She also plans on lifting. “I don’t want to get bullied by 20-year-olds all year,” she said.

At the signing ceremony where she pinpointed her future plans for the public to see, Burke was moved by the community that was there to support her.

“I was super excited to see who was going to come, and a lot more people came than I really thought would,” Burke said.

“It just made me feel super happy, because none of those people had to come and watch me sign a piece of paper, but they did.”