Beyond the buckets: DU’s Burnett helps Flint while chasing scoring record

Posted at 7:01 PM, Feb 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-24 19:01:40-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- When you've scored more than 2,700 points in your career, you're bound to have a least one favorite bucket. In the case of Davenport senior guard Dominez Burnett, the choice is tough.

"I have two," Dominez said on Monday. "I think my first one would be when I scored 2,000 points (against Purdue University North Central in November.) And I think the shot against Cornerstone in the corner (in January.) I made a three-point play. Just the atmosphere of the crowd. The atmosphere of the game. Just so much excitement and joy."

It's probably the same excitement and joy Davenport head coach Burt Paddock felt when he landed Burnett in his 2012 recruiting class.

How long did it take for Paddock to know what a special player he had?

"The first day he stepped on campus -- I'll be honest with you," Paddock said on Monday. "When we had him out -- before he even came here to go to school -- we had an open gym. He came and played with our guys -- and he was by far the best player on the floor. He was doing something that kids at this level can't do from a physical standpoint."

That first day has expanded into a legendary college career in the NAIA ranks. Burnett is a three-time All-American (two first-team selections and honorable mention his freshman season), two WHAC Player of the Year honors (2014, 2015), the defending NABC/NAIA Player of the Year, and Davenport's all-time leading scorer.

Heading into the conference tournament this week, Dominez is just 70 points away from setting a new record for points in a career by any college basketball player in the state of Michigan. The previous record of 2,772 is held by former Cornerstone star and current Byron Center boys' basketball head coach Jared Crandell.

While Burnett has scored plenty of points, he and the Panthers have yet to win a national championship. The desire for that outweighs the individual achievement.

"If it's meant for me to get the record, I'll get it," he says. "If it's meant for me to get the national championship, we're gonna get it -- so I more or less don't just set up on one thing. If it happens, I'm honored. I'm thankful, but I more or less wanna win this championship."

Regardless, for a kid playing at a non-NCAA school, Dominez has made quite a name for himself.

"He kind of owns Grand Rapids," Paddock says. "Everybody knows who Dominez Burnett is."

The Calder City has given Burnett a stage -- but it's a city 113 miles to the east that molded Burnett: his hometown of Flint.

"Me coming from Flint...Flint builds character," he says. "Flint builds you to be tough because Flint is a violent city. I'm very proud to be from Flint. I love my city to death. It made me who I am today."

When news of the Flint water crisis spread, their native son sprung into action. Dominez and his Davenport team organized a water drive, collecting almost 5,000 bottles of water for the city.

"I love that I get so much support from my city," Burnett says. "I wanna do everything I can to help my city when we're in a crisis like this and I have family back home who are still affected by this crisis."

"I'm gonna do the best I can to help anyway I can."

The next way he can help? Being a beacon of hope for a city in despair.

"I use that as motivation," Dominez says. "I just wanna be on the positive side to where they talk about good. They don't have to keep talking about the crimes and the violence. Let's talk about how he's succeeding in school and we have him out here producing for basketball."

"I just want the good things to get acknowledged. I go out there and try to make that noticeable by doing the right things and helping when I can help and representing my city the best way that I can."