Josh Burnett knows his A-B-Cs.
Altitude. Buoyancy. Commitment. The Star-Advertiser 2014 boys basketball All-State player of the year also knows another ‘C’: Contentment. The 6-foot-4 wing played at four destinations on his life-after-high-school basketball map, earned a degree in psychology, and then turned down offers to play overseas.
Burnett is employed by the U.S. Postal Service in St. Louis, Mo., earning his paycheck and enjoying peace of mind.
“I might go back to get my master’s (degree) next year if I can find a grad assistant position,” Burnett said on Sunday.
Nearing college graduation in 2018, he listened and contemplated.
“I had two offers to go to the Czech Republic and Croatia, but they weren’t for a lot of money, so I’m just working right now. I chose to finish school. I’m making pretty good money right now, a lot more than I would’ve playing (overseas),” Burnett said. “A master’s would open a lot more opportunities for me in different places.”
As a Spartan, Burnett averaged 23 points and eight rebounds per game as a senior, helping the program reach the state semifinals in ’14. His teammate, Kaleb Gilmore, was voted to the same POY honor a year later.
Maryknoll Coach Kelly Grant still has video footage from that 2013-14 season.
“Josh had a pair of dunks against Saint Louis that were like NBA dunks. On one dunk, Kaleb took a 3, Josh came in from the top of the key and dunked (the rebound) over two guys and was arm-deep in the rim, Vince Carter style,” he recalled. “At our gym, he dunked over someone on a fastbreak.”
After graduating from Maryknoll, Burnett’s voyage began with a prep school in North Carolina. That led to a scholarship offer from Kennesaw State (Ga.) of the ASUN Conference.
“After my sophomore season, I felt that I had earned my place at that level. Then in April (of 2017) during a pickup game I had a really bad ankle injury where I tore all the ligaments in my ankle. I was unable to do anything that summer,” Burnett said. “I was out for six months and the coaching and training staff didn’t think I would be the same player, so they took my scholarship.”
He transferred to Shorter University in Rome, Ga.
“I still believed in my game, so I spent that summer looking for an opportunity and I found that at Shorter. That’s where my rebuilding process began,” Burnett said.
Shorter is part of the Gulf South Conference.
“It’s a top Division II conference, so I believed if I did well there, I could still go pro,” Burnett said.
His comeback was epic. Burnett was runner-up for D-II national newcomer of the year. Then came the next crushing adversity. Some of his credits at Kennesaw State did not transfer over to Shorter.
“Due to an academic oversight by me and my counselor, I became ineligible even though I had a good GPA, which made me unable to receive a scholarship for my senior year at that school,” he said.
That’s when he stepped on the gas pedal and headed to the race track.
“That’s when Talladega (College) called. It’s funny because there’s nothing in Talladega except for the speedway. I went to a few races there and boy, that was an experience,” Burnett said.
He played his senior season, continued for one more academic year — joining the team’s coaching staff — then earned his degree and prepared for the next chapter.
“After I left Shorter, I was more focused on graduating and finding good job opportunities,” Burnett said. “They don’t tell a lot of things about the NCAA when you’re coming up, but one of the things I had to learn was, when you transfer schools, the NCAA doesn’t allow you to keep all your credits all the time, so you end up having to retake courses at your new school. I had to spend an extra year at Talladega to get my degree.”
Burnett graduated cum laude with departmental distinction.
“One of my fellow graduates was ‘Prime Time’ himself, Deion Sanders,” he said.
The temptation to travel and play in Europe beckoned.
“I came close. I ran the numbers and saw that seeking employment on the mainland was a more stable choice. I was fortunate to play with and against a lot of pros, and learned a lot about how things really are overseas,” he said. “I have a really good job for me right now. I still pick up the ball and get buckets, but I’m focused on my work career right now. Basketball will always be my love. I wouldn’t have made it this far without it.”
Seeking guidance, offering help — Burnett says he has seen this every step along the way from Maryknoll to his current career. That’s what inspired him to major in psychology. That’s why post-graduate education is likely.
“It would provide more opportunities for a leadership role, which also equals more money. It would allow me to implement programs and guidance at a higher level,” he said.
Even after six busy years away, Burnett still cherishes his years at Maryknoll under Coach Grant.
“When I look back at my Maryknoll years, I remember the crowds. We always had support at all our games. Maryknoll is a small school, so I felt a little more connected with everyone that went there. All the little kids would run up to me after school on my way to the gym just to say, ‘Hi Josh,’ and ask for high fives and things like that,” he said. “I’ll always remember those things.”
Yet, time provides a different perspective.
“Knowing what I know now, I definitely would’ve been more aggressive,” he says of his high school career. “I’ve always been a team player and enjoyed seeing my teammates score, but in hindsight, had I capitalized on my natural scoring abilities, I feel I would’ve had more (college) options for the game that I love.”
Grant remembers a young student-athlete with immense potential.
“He was an unbelievable athlete. I have these debates with a lot of our coaching staff about who our better players were,” he said. “A lot of our success came on the backs of Josh and Kaleb.”
Grant also remembers Burnett’s father, Timothy.
“I wasn’t the nicest coach to Josh,” Grant said. “His dad said, ‘Do what you have to do to get this guy ready.’ ”
Burnett remembers clearly the people who made an impact during his high school years.
“First and foremost, the McGiverns (Heidi and Mark). They were the first people to welcome me into the Maryknoll family,” Burnett said. “A lot of players reached out to me for advice. Some who requested to wear my number after I left. I didn’t realize the impact I had on the younger generation. Josh was always a bright kid with high SATs. His aspiration was to become a newscaster. It’s unfortunate we didn’t win a state championship (with him).”
He has kept up with the ensuing parade of players who have lifted Maryknoll to prominence.
“Marcus (Shaver), Justice Sueing, Kam (Kameron Ng) and Sage (Tolentino), they continued to show that there is real talent in Hawaii.
Top 3 food/snack/drink
1. Pappy’s Smokehouse. “Hands down, the best ribs here.”
2. Peking Chop Suey. “Really good Chinese.”
Top 3 podcasts
1. All the Smoke, hosted by Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson.
2. JJ Redick.
3. Bill Simmons.
4. Through the Wire.
Burnett: To my dad (Timothy) and mom (Veronica). If you’ve ever been to one of the games, you’ve heard him. He’s always been there for me. Last, but not least, my mom for recording all of my games that allowed me to be seen outside of Hawaii.”