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Weber State basketball: Former Big Sky top freshman Burris brings ‘details of winning’ to WSU

By BRETT HEIN - Standard-Examiner | May 2, 2024
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Utah State's Nigel Burris runs the floor in this undated game from the 2023-24 season in Logan.
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Utah State's Nigel Burris shoots a layup in a game against South Dakota Mines on Nov. 6, 2023, in Logan.
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Nigel Burris

One of the Big Sky Conference’s most promising former men’s basketball players is returning to the league, and he’ll wear purple.

Utah State forward Nigel Burris will transfer to Weber State for the 2024-25 season. Burris announced his commitment Tuesday evening on social media and represents the final addition to WSU’s roster of scholarship players.

“There’s a level of toughness at Weber State that I want to be part of,” Burris said. “The coaches believe in me, I believe in them and it’s just a culture about Weber State that — it reminds me of what we had at Utah State, really. That winning culture, that loyalty.”

At Idaho, Burris was the Big Sky freshman of the year for the 2022-23 season. The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 8.8 points and five rebounds per game while shooting 52.7% overall, 44.8% from the 3-point line and 87% at the foul line on a team where the ball was often dominated by someone else.

In Big Sky games, he was the fifth-best defensive rebounder in the league by percentage and No. 12 in effective field goal percentage.

Head coach Zac Claus was fired after Idaho’s regular-season finale. Burris capped his freshman season with 21 points, seven rebounds and 7-of-10 shooting in a conference tournament game, entered the transfer portal and joined a roster of talented transfers heading to Utah State with new coach Danny Sprinkle.

The Aggies ended up being quite good (28-7, won the Mountain West regular season, won an NCAA Tournament game) with familiar transfers Great Osobor, Darius Brown and Ian Martinez leading the way.

Burris took a back seat in Logan, averaging five minutes per game in 20 appearances in the 2023-24 season, and Sprinkle left USU after one season to take over at Washington.

He doesn’t see it as a wasted year.

“I do not regret it at all. Coach Sprinkle, I learned a lot from him,” Burris said. “He’s a great coach and I was sad he left for Washington but I learned so much in terms of winning and developing good habits.”

Burris says he learned how to process the game better at Utah State and understand the “details of winning.”

With his second coaching change in two seasons, he wanted to find a team that could win like Utah State did with him on the floor impacting that success. Drawing a variety of interest, the San Francisco native focused on his top offers from Big Sky coaches and got familiar with Weber State’s coaches by going out to lunch.

“Their coaching style, they want to get back to being fast-paced. They have sets but they’re free-flowing and trust you to make plays, and that’s part of my game,” Burris said. “I have a lot more basketball in me, and coaches have been saying that. My freshman year was a glimpse, if you want to put it like that, but based on my experience — with that chip on my shoulder, not being on the floor as much — there’s more to the story.

“There’s more added to my game that I want to embrace when I get on the floor.”

He says he’ll zero in on a degree in WSU’s business school and start working out with his new teammates in June.

Burris is the final of 13 scholarship players for Weber’s 2024-25 roster and will be the lone junior on the team. He’ll compete with sophomore Marko Sarenac at the forward spot, though both will likely be counted on to be major contributors as head coach Eric Duft and company seek a versatile lineup that can present different matchups.

The deadline to enter the transfer portal (outside of players affected by coaching changes) has come and gone, so Weber State has officially hung onto its three returning seniors in point guard Blaise Threatt, wing/forward Dyson Koehler and center Alex Tew.

Fifth-year senior combo guard Miguel Tomley arrives from Idaho State, and fourth-year senior center Vasilije Vucinic joins WSU from the University of Portland.

Viljami Vartiainen, a 6-foot-6 guard, returns as a sophomore looking to build on shooting 45.5% from 3 over the final 22 games of his freshman campaign.

WSU’s five freshmen are: redshirt shooting guard Nemanja Sarenac, Washington’s 4A player of the year in combo guard Trevor Hennig, 6-foot-5 point guard Saadiq Moore from California, and two Canadians in stretch forward David Hansen and post big man Declan Cutler.


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