Did athletic program changes at York Prep influence D.J. Burns to graduate early?
D.J. Burns couldn't resist the call of "Rocky Top."
Asked if he knew the words to the University of Tennessee's traditional fight song, Burns, the 6-foot-9 York Prep basketball standout, proceeded to sing them over the phone to a reporter Saturday afternoon. He'll potentially have four more years to nail down the song's intricacies; Burns committed to play college basketball for Rick Barnes and the Volunteers on June 1.
"I just looked at all the options I was blessed to have and took everything into great, deep thought. South Carolina and Tennessee were the two schools I was really looking at. You know when you go to a place and you have the feeling, 'this is where I want to be,' well, that's the feeling I got.
"It's where I can go and grow."
The 6-foot-9 center opted for Tennessee over a mountain of other offers, including some he received as a ninth grader. South Carolina and Virginia had decent shots of convincing Burns to wear their colors in college, but he ultimately opted for the Volunteers on Friday night.
Burns' ability brought coaches like North Carolina's Roy Williams to York Prep's gym. Burns scored over 1,000 points and grabbed over 1,000 rebounds in just three years of high school basketball and finished this season as a top-100 national recruit.
Most expected Burns to have another year of high school but he announced on his Twitter page in early May that he would be moving his graduation up and joining the Class of 2018. Burns said his decision was made without major regard to the athletic program changes that happened at York Prep the last few months. He graduated with York Prep's senior class on May 25.
“I have all of the courses completed that I would need and, instead of going to York Tech or Winthrop and doing a class, I decided to go ahead and get the college training and full experience that I would not be able to experience in high school,” Burns told The State newspaper.
An excellent student, Burns is also a crafty passer and finisher in the post at a time when that style of play is drifting out of fashion. As his AAU coach with the Georgia Stars, Chris Richards, said, "you have someone you can throw it into the post to and he can create a shot or maybe a foul situation. You can control the flow of the game a little bit."
Burns joins a Tennessee program that enters 2018-19 with buzz and a likely top-5 preseason ranking. The Vols won 26 games last season, their best win total since 2009, and they only graduated one player.
"We're gonna win games," Burns said. "And the team can help me get to the level that I'm trying to play at."