Kody Burke, Poole College senior and student athlete, begins training with Washington Mystics
While other NC State Poole College students are taking final exams this week, graduating senior Kody Burke is preparing for the next stage of her basketball career – training with the Washington Mystics in Washington, D.C.
Burke, NC State’s three-time Capital One Academic All-American and Northridge, Calif., native, became the 15th student athlete in the university’s program history to be chosen in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) Draft earlier this spring.
She was selected on the same evening as teammate Markeisha Gatling (first round, 10th overall), making this the first time since 2007 that the Wolfpack had two WNBA college draft selections in one spring. Gatling is a senior in the College of Natural Resources’ Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management program.
Burke and the Mystics will open the 2014 WNBA preseason at Indiana on Monday, May 5.
Once in a lifetime opportunity
A graduating senior in the NC Poole College of Management majoring in business administration with a concentration in finance, Burke said she has a job lined up with PNC and had not been paying attention to the draft – until she started getting congratulatory text messages.
Once she learned the news, she said, “I was so excited; it was completely unexpected. Our team did well nationally and I can say that I had a good senior year individually, but never did I think that I was among the top 36 best players in the country. Washington gave me a chance; I’m just so fortunate.”
Friends and her parents, Rogelio and Janice Burke, had been watching the draft announcements, though. “They were so happy. Mom and Dad said they couldn’t sleep that night. They had been watching the draft announcements to see who else got picked up from the Atlantic Coast Conference,” Kody Burke said.
Her father, a former college and professional basketball player himself, had encouraged her in the sport and was her first coach when she started playing at age 11. He had played for the University of California, Riverside and California State University, Dominguez Hills, and professionally in Mexico and his home country of Panama.
As she advanced, he “sent me off to other coaches and programs to develop me as a basketball player,” she said. Burke has played since her years at Northridge Middle School in Northridge, Calif., and Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
'I love the sport'
“Considering that I played basketball for so long, I can say that I love the sport,” she said. “I’m a competitive person by nature and what I like about basketball is that you have a chance to recover and go on a run and gain momentum and keep on going. It’s very competitive, which I love, along with the physicality of it and the fans – they’ve been a great support system, both for me and NC State.”
When asked what made her decide on NC State for her collegiate career, she said it was “the southern hospitality, the family atmosphere and the support for Wolfpack Women’s Basketball, and the competiveness of the ACC – it is one of the more powerful women’s basketball conferences in the country, and since I’m a competitive person, it complemented that.”
Burke enters the professional league with an impressive collegiate record. NC State’s athletics news services reports that she “had an incredible career for the Wolfpack, one which will remain in State’s record books for some time. She finished her senior season ranked second in program history in appearances (132) and blocks (197), ninth in program history in career rebounds (832), and 11th in program history in career points scored (1,588).”
Her academic record is equally impressive. Earlier this year, for the third straight season, she was named a Capital One Academic All-American by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). At the start of her last semester, she had a strong 3.93 overall GPA in her coursework and expects to graduate in May 2014 with a bachelor’s in business administration and a concentration in finance, having wrapped up her coursework and completing final exams before heading to Washington, D.C. for training.
Time management, communicating with professors key for academic success
“As a student, she has always been amazing to work with,” said Dr. Lauren Brown, her academic advisor in Poole College. “She is completely on top of everything, asks questions and meets deadlines, and she’s genuinely nice. Given the number of students we have as advisors, to have someone stand out is special,” Brown said.
Burke credits her academic success to skills developed during her years at Notre Dame High School, a college preparatory school. “I learned to apply good time management, utilizing a planner, and knowing the importance of prioritization, so I just put that toward college. It was an easy transition,” she said.
Balancing academic and athletic commitments also required communicating regularly with her professors, Burke said, adding that the same advice applies to all students.
“Everyone has their situation,” she said. “There are student athletes but there also are students who work full time or part time, so the same thing: review your schedule with your professors, say you want to make sure you stay on track. Professors definitely challenge you but they’re willing to accommodate you, to make sure you stay on task and complete assignments. It will require you to give up some your free time but in the long run, it’s definitely going to pay off, like it did for me,” Burke said. “Forgo some extra hours of sleep or social activities. You have to learn to keep a balance but early on, communicate and let them know your situation.”
In selecting her major in college, Burke followed the advice of her high school academic counselor. “I was good at mathematics in high school, and my academic counselor said, ‘Kody, with your knowledge of math, you can apply it to a business setting.’”
The counselor had suggested accounting, but after several preliminary business courses, Burke said, “I really found a liking for finance; it still deals with math but is in a language that I can understand.”
The start date for Burke’s first professional job off the courts – with PNC’s asset management training program, a step toward being a financial planner – has been deferred as she plays with the Mystics for four months and then possibly another eight months in Europe.
“They told me to go for it, that it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Burke said of her recruiters at PNC. “They were so supportive.”
Burke’s long term goal is to have a career that blends athletics and business.
“I think I would like to be a financial planner for professional athletes. Athletics – I’ve been involved in it all my life and if I can continue in that professional sports setting, that would be great,” she said. “I’ve also thought about being an athletic administrator for a division I institution.”
She got a taste of that career path last summer, when she completed an internship in NC State’s athletics business office. “I dealt with finance in an athletic setting and I thought that was pretty cool,” she said. That summer internship proved to be an easy transition from the classroom to the business office. “All that I did was related to coursework, like my information systems class,” she said.
In story: Koby Burke and Dr. Lauren Brown, advisor.