ELON — Shaylen Burnett has become one of the most decorated players in Elon women’s basketball history.
The adoration that has come with that is something the senior guard has had to grow into. She has been happy to do so.
“I am comfortable with it,” Burnett said.
Burnett has become one of the most recognizable athletes at the school. Last year, she received the Basnight Outstanding Athlete award as the university’s top female athlete.
Her role in helping Elon reach consecutive NCAA Tournaments is bound to be one of the legacies left by the Southern Alamance graduate.
“Shay Burnett has carried this program on her back for four years, even when she was a freshman,” Elon coach Charlotte Smith said.
At times when the Phoenix is playing in sports other than women’s basketball, Burnett assists the game operations staff as part of an internship. She’s a sport and event management major.
But perhaps most rewarding for her is working with youngsters at Elon’s camps. And then those youth players return to watch the Phoenix play.
“I’m excited that we have kids come to our camps and they can look up to us,” Burnett said.
Burnett’s roster spot and prominence on the team has attracted a steady stream of area fans to Alumni Gym. It’s common for Southern Alamance logos to be easily identified among those showing up to watch their former high school standout.
“It’s great to have that support,” Burnett said.
For freshman backcourt mate Saadia Munford, the presence of Burnett has been a blessing.
“I don’t have to do too much,” said Munford, an All-CAA rookie team member. “You can count on her to be there.”
Her teammates have described Burnett as perhaps the goofiest member of the Phoenix for her fun-loving nature. It’s another tag that she’s able to embrace.
“I like to have fun,” she said. “They say I’m a fun person to be around.”
She’s a three-time All-Colonial Athletic Association first-team selection. Last weekend, she was named the CAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Performer.
“The great thing about Shay Burnett is she is a fantastic player who can just take over a game,” Smith said. “A great player who makes everybody around her better. … The court vision she has to make passes. She gets it done in so many ways for our team. We call her a Swiss Army knife.”
When the Phoenix takes on host North Carolina State in Friday afternoon’s first round of the NCAA Tournament, Burnett will be making her 121st career start.
She already has more than 1,500 points, more than 550 assists and close to 900 rebounds.
She’s considered a 5-foot-9 guard, but her impact is felt around the court.
“Put me wherever it takes to get the job done,” Smith said of Burnett’s outlook. “We’ve played her everywhere from 1 through 4.”
Burnett called it amazing to be part of four postseason tournament teams, including the Women’s National Invitation Tournament in her first two seasons.
When she’s done competing for the Phoenix, Burnett said she’ll consider playing overseas if that’s what she must do to secure a professional opportunity. She’s also interested in coaching.
Later this month, she’s scheduled to take part in a “So You Want To Be A Coach” seminar, a three-day program directed by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association held in conjunction with the Women’s Final Four in Columbus, Ohio. While there, she’ll also pursue a spot in a WNBA combine to further showcase her on-court skills.
But for now, she has a chance to put on that Elon uniform again.
“Senior year, getting to play in the Big Dance for the second year in a row is exciting,” Burnett said.