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OCC women's hoops will definitely have a local flavorPosted Thursday, April 29, 2010, at 2:00 PM
Former Olney Central College assistant men's basketball coach Clint Burris (right) is shown talking with an OCC player last season. Burris is now the women's coach at OCC. (By B.J. Hargis/Greene County Daily World).
That's because former Eastern Greene standout Clint Burris has taken over the reigns of the program at Olney Central College.
Burris was an assistant for brother Mike, who is currently the men's coach, before being promoted to women's head coach last year when Darletta Helm resigned with just four games remaining.
The 2003 EGHS grad, began his coaching career under less than ideal circumstances.
He was enrolled in his fifth year of studies at Southern Illinois University -- Edwardsville, which was a two hour drive from the OCC campus, when his brother had an opening on his staff.
"I had four classes left to take fall semester and I said I'm not doing it unless I graduate," Burris said. "Our athletic director (OCC baseball coach Dennis Conley) was really, really good about letting me go take my classes."
That meant he was only available to be at Olney for just a few days a week to help his brother.
"I made three round trips a week," he quipped. "So I put some miles on my car in that three month period there."
He said that dedication to both his studies and the men's program went a long way in convincing Conley that he was the man to fill the women's coaching vacancy.
"It was one of those things where the women's program has been struggling and we went from winning nine to 21 to 17 games this year on the men's side," Burris said. "The AD knew that I was young, willing to work hard and he wanted to get a fresh start on the women's program -- I really appreciate coach Conley for giving me that opportunity and the opportunity to rebuild the program."
Burris and assistant Candice Jones won one of those first four games and are now heading into their first full season with a full head of steam.
"We've got Alicia (Tally) and Marki (Collins) and then we've got one girl coming back, Nikki Sims from Edgewood," Burris said. "Then we've got four visits lined up this week, we've got two for next week. We're getting them built up and getting all of that done.
"So if we get some commitments in the next couple of weeks, we could have 10 players signed."
If anything, Burris brings a cross-section of experience to the table. He has played basketball at the Division I, and Junior College levels.
His college playing career began with two seasons at OCC followed by one year at Weber State and one year at the University of Evansville under Marty Simmons.
"I'm well-travelled and I think that's one of my advantages," Burris said. "I've played at junior college, I've played at Division I so I know the wide realm and the aspects at every level."
Things haven't been going as well for the once proud and strong Lady Knights in the recent past.
After winning 33 games and losing only three in 1999, a year that saw them place seventh at the NJCAA National Finals, they have fallen on hard times.
In the last four years, the Lady Knights have won only 20 games, so the program under Burris certainly has no where to go but up.
"We're trying to get it built back up to that level and slowly build it back up," Burris said prior to signing Collins. "That's the good thing about junior college, you can rebuild it in two years."
He said that with just one player leftover from the old regime, the opportunity is definitely there.
"With only one kid coming back all that culture's gone," he said. "And we're bringing in all of our recruits now."
Rick Curl is a sports writer for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or at (812) 847-4487, ext. 20.
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