Those who have followed the Red Storm this season have been treated to a new-look Justin Burell.
It’s not that the 6-8 sophomore forward’s game has changed dramatically from his standout freshman season, it’s that he literally looks different.
Burrell was injured in practice on Dec. 19 when he collided with teammate Sean Evans during practice and has been sporting a clear plastic protective facemask since his Dec. 27 return against Miami.
Though the wardrobe addition is something that has taken some getting used to for Burrell.
“The only difference is out of the peripheral,” he said. “It’s kind of tough to see because where I sustained my injury and the mask has to cover that area, which is by the corner of my eye.”
Burrell struggled in the statline early on after his return. Though he scored 10 points against Miami and 18 against Notre Dame (Jan. 3), he managed just three points against Providence (Dec. 31), five points against Pittsburgh (Jan. 11) and only two against Connecticut (Jan. 15).
But Burrell insists that the mask isn’t the cause of any dropoff in offensive production.
“For a while in the beginning I was nervous,” he said. “Only in the heat of the moment you can’t really remember if you have the mask on.”
And in the past three games, the sophomore had seemed to finally found his touch back.In the Villanova loss (Jan 18), he chipped in 13 points and seven rebounds.
Then in the following game, the heartbreaking Cincinnati loss (Dec. 22), he was one of the few bright spots of the game. He had 15 points, five rebounds and was a dominant force in the paint.
In the Rutgers win on Saturday, he nearly missed a double-double, with nine points and eight rebounds.
“You can’t let something like that change the style of your game,” Burrell said about his recent success. “You got to just continue to play through it.”
And in the end, Burrell isn’t overly serious about how the facemask inhibits him on the court.
“The most negative thing about wearing the mask is that I can’t wear a headband,” he said.
“I’ve been wearing headbands for as long as I’ve been playing basketball.”