Because he’s never been the biggest guy on a basketball court, Flint Northern grad Greg Burks has spent his basketball career proving people wrong.
Out of high school, he ended up going to small Prairie View A & M where he turned himself into one of the best guards in the country at that level. His standout college career turned into a successful pro basketball career spent in Germany.
Burks, who is often found working out in Flint area gyms as well as working with the city’s young players, recently decided to retire from basketball. Below are a few questions with him about his career:
GLH: First of all, what led to your decision to retire from playing?
GB: “I just felt it was right, I have accomplished a lot of things through basketball and been a lot of places, Surpassed a lot of people’s expectations for me and used my talents the best i knew how while playing. The market is kinda crazy in Europe right now with the recession so I just didn’t want to take anything and play anywhere. So once this opportunity came about that I have now I felt it was too good of an opportunity to pass up so I decided to step away.”
GLH: What countries did you play in in your career?
GB: “Ironically I only played in Germany was close to going a couple of other places but Germany was the only place i suited up at. I played games against other teams from other places like Czech Republic, Russia, France, Austria, Holland, Cyprus.”
GLH: Many people growing up want to make a living playing basketball and few are ever able to do that. Have you reflected much on the fact that you are one of the few that actually accomplished that? What does it mean to you?
GB: “Yea I have sat and thought about it. I really did before I made the decision officially. Like I said I did a lot with the game, made the All-American team my senior year in college, played alongside a ton of NBA players and although I never played a official game on a NBA floor I wasn’t far from it. I know I have been blessed, God blessed me with the ability and opportunity to do this and I am thankful. It’s funny you ask this because me and Kelvin Torbert was talking about how we have been doing it (playing professionally) and did it on the phone about a month ago.
“What means the most to me about having the opportunity to play is that when I was told that i was too small and other had opinions on the way I should play I was able to overcome it and still succeed. Played at a smaller Division I school and still made it. Goes to show you that whatever you want to achieve you can do it with hard work.”
GLH: As a guy who grew up in Flint, how cool was it to, through basketball, get to see a lot of the world?
GB: “It was fantastic but weird along the way if that makes sense (laughs). I say that because I never would have thought while I was younger that I would be playing the places I have played and wouldn’t have known how serious the game of basketball is to the fans in Europe. You hear all the stories but they really are passionate about the game there and that’s something I would not have imagined.”
GLH: Any favorite moments from your career overseas?
GB: “The interaction and excitement with fans was so great during those games man. Also the game I played against Russian Power Dynamo Moscow was great.”
GLH: I know you’re very active with young players in Flint and have been for a while. Do you have any plans to pursue coaching at some point?
GB: “You know everybody says that I will be a coach at sometime in my future and I can kinda see that I would like to pursue it maybe in the future.”
GLH: Who was the toughest player you ever went against playing in Flint?
GB: “Well that’s easy. it’s Mateen. He was the person who I knew once I could compete against him I was ready to play at a high level. He was so strong and quick while being agile and many guys don’t have that combination and he was a tough as they come. He was a person I talked with right after I made the career switch, I respect him so much. Nick Stapleton was probably who I had my best battles with though and the best player I have seen here was Cory Hightower talent-wise.”
GLH: Have you had a chance to see any of the young guys currently playing at the high school level much this season? What advice do you give those guys when you talk to them?
GB: “Yeah I have seen almost all of the guys play from Monte (Morris) to (Patrick) Lucas-Perry to Jaylen (Magee), Cyrus (McDonald), J-Hawk (Javontae Hawkins), Dre (Parks), Quez (Pool) and Corey (Jones) from SWA and the guys at Northern. Many of them worked out with me this summer and what I told them then is what I continue to tell them now, and that’s keep working hard and stay in the gym.
“It’s the only way to get better for some of the guys here who are the better players. They have to realize that they are not competing against the guys here in high school but they are competing against the best high school players in Ohio, Texas, New York and other places. Just because you are good right now doesn’t mean you will be good in the future because the guy in Brooklyn is better than the guys here and has been working. Once you see him, who has really been working will show.”
— Patrick Hayes | Great Lakes Hoops