UW Women's Basketball
Burt likes being out of spotlight
Finally, Kayla Burt can relax. True, there is at least one more basketball game to play — Burt's Huskies face Oregon State in the...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Finally, Kayla Burt can relax.
True, there is at least one more basketball game to play — Burt's Huskies face Oregon State in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament in San Jose, Calif., tonight. There is the strong possibility of a second-round game tomorrow. And the chance that the Huskies can stay as hot as they were to end the regular season and make a run at the tournament title — which comes with an automatic NCAA tournament berth.
But how much can she really be at peace, knowing there is a defibrillator inside her chest, knowing that she could go into cardiac arrest without warning? Knowing that on New Year's Eve 2002, her heart stopped and she almost died?
Quite a bit, actually. Because Burt has beaten the odds. The blonde 5-foot-11 gunner from Arlington is about to finish her comeback season after a two-year absence, a comeback few believed would ever happen.
The only thing curious about Burt these days is the clear plastic mask she has had to wear for two weeks because of a broken nose. The mask apparently doesn't affect her game. Burt ended the regular season as the Pac-10 player of the week thanks to a 23-point, six-three-pointer effort at Arizona in Saturday's win.
The spotlight of national attention from her story has faded, and Burt is another Huskies student-athlete with a daily routine. Her teammates see the same person she was before some of them were there to save her life that night more than two years ago. But Burt has yet to put it all into perspective.
"Maybe once the season's over, I'll have a better opportunity to do that," Burt said. "But this season's been crazy. Probably not what we expected or wanted, but the biggest thing is that this team has never given up."
Neither has Burt, even though this season has gone by so fast for her.
"The biggest thing that I expected and did achieve was being happy and just realizing that playing again was such a tremendous opportunity," she said. "Just to not take any game for granted, even the losses. I walked away from all those losses with a smile on my face, maybe not visible but inside, just because it was another game completed of hard-fought basketball."
Burt, a junior in eligibility, opened this season as a starter, returning to game action for real the night the Huskies opened the season in November. She scored in bunches early on but fell into a fatigue-induced slump by the time the Pac-10 season started.
Huskies coaches decided to bring Burt off the bench, beginning with the game at Oregon on Jan. 13. Burt scored 19 points that night, and has eased into her role as a key reserve.
"Coming back after so long off, I rushed things a little bit as a player," she said. "I think I was trying to attack the game too much, and I kind of got over my head a little bit. Once I calmed down toward the second half of the season, I felt more like myself out there. And even now I'm starting to feel better and better."
Said associate head coach Mike Daugherty: "She's on her way back, and this bodes good things for her future. I think you're just seeing the tip of the iceberg."
As recently as a month ago, Burt's story was still national news. She appeared in Sports Illustrated On Campus and was on the cover of USA Today on Dec. 9.
"The aftermath of realizing that millions of people are reading this and seeing your story for the first time, it's pretty cool for me," Burt said.
When this season ends, she looks forward to conditioning for her senior season.
"I would say it was kind of expected to get through this season and have no complications," Burt said. "Obviously you think something could happen this year or next game or next practice, but I haven't thought about it too much. You can't control some of the things that happen to you on and off the court."
José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or email@example.com
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