North Springs High guard John Burke has the gift of creativity.
The 6-foot-3 senior is the focus of opposing defenses and still finds ways to score, averaging 27 points. On Tuesday, Burke scored 24 in the 73-67 loss to Riverwood, which was led by Austin Smoak with 21 points.
“When people come to the gym for our games, they want to see a show,” Burke said. “I try to put on that show for them every time I go out there.”
Burke also is extremely creative away from the basketball court. He worked with a couple of family members to develop a device to accelerate the healing of sprained ankles. He received a provisional patent and has entered into a partnership with Emory, where his father David Burke is chairman of the department of rehabilitation medicine.
It is Burke’s ability to score points that has created a buzz around North Springs basketball. Everybody knows that the Spartans count heavily on Burke for points, yet there doesn’t seem to be much that defenses can do to stop him. His season low for a game is 10 points.
“He just knows how to score in a variety of ways,” North Springs coach Ryan Koudele said. “He’s a really good ballhandler, so he knows how to get to the basket. He can shoot from the outside — not just the regular 3-point line, but from college range and beyond.
“The other thing — because he knows how to get to the basket so well, he gets fouled a lot and shots a ton of free throws. He’s close to 80 percent on his foul shots.”
Earlier this season, Burke set the school record with 56 points in a 112-95 win over North Paulding. Burke played like he was on another planet, making his first 15 shots from the field, including a perfect 5-for-5 on 3-pointers. He had 40 points by halftime.
In a recent win against St. Pius, Burke converted 20 of 24 free throws to finish with 35 points. Said St. Pius coach Ben Miller: “He has the green light to put up a bunch of shots, and he’s definitely a good player. He’s brute and can attack the rim or shoot from outside, which makes him pretty versatile.”
Burke has scored 30 or more points in seven of 22 games this season. He has seen every type of junk defense thrown at him, and often takes a beating when attempting to score. Burke gained 20 points of muscle since last year, which has really helped.
“Last year, when he drove to the basket and was fouled, he got a lot more calls because he wasn’t as strong — when they knocked him down, he’d hit the floor hard,” Koudele said. “This year when he gets hammered, sometimes it’s a foul call and sometimes it’s not. He’s so much stronger.”
Having stronger ankles was the idea behind Burke’s invention. As a youngster, he frequently was hindered by sprained ankles from playing basketball. However long it took to heal was too long because it affected his game. Burke read a number of studies on healing ankles with wobble boards, as well as enhancing the performance of soft tissues with vibration. Combining the two could accelerate healing, theorized Burke and his father.
It’s called the “Iron Ankle,” a vibrating wobble board. Burke’s grandfather is an engineer and came up with the technical drawings to submit for a patent. Burke and his father built the prototype together and took it to Emory, which deemed it worthy of pursuit.