Kennedy Burke has quickly found a role with the Mystics originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
On a team filled with stars and eccentric characters, a quiet, soft-spoken addition often gets lost in the shuffle. But in just five games with the Washington Mystics Kennedy Burke has quickly carved herself a meaningful role.
Saturday against the Connecticut Sun marked the second start of the season for the fourth-year guard. Minutes were going to be at a premium for her and her teammates with Elena Delle Donne (rest) and Alysha Clark (COVID protocols) missing the contest.
But of the group of starters, three of which who have been playing together since 2018, it was Burke who provided the most consistent offense in the 79-71 loss.
Burke tied Ariel Atkins with a team-high 13 points but at a more efficient rate shooting 5-for-12 from the field and making three of her six 3-point attempts. She also added three rebounds and three steals. Normally, that would be a strong night for a role player. In this case, it was the best for Washington.
"I mean, she's really helping us," head coach Mike Thibault said postgame. "She's got size to guard people, she made some threes to get us going again. She's been a great addition to our team."
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A welcomed addition who wasn't even on the training camp roster when the season began. The UCLA product started the year out with the Seattle Storm after getting traded there before last season. She was waived during training camp, despite not yet reporting due to overseas obligations.
Thibault immediately didn't waste any time putting a claim in on the 6-foot-1 wing. Even though the transaction forced the Mystics to temporarily waive Katie Benzan and limit them to only nine players on opening night, it was a move the team was afraid another team would make before them. Even before the season, Thibault was looking at trading a future second or third-round pick for the 25-year-old.
She didn't join the team until nearly two weeks into the season but didn't miss a beat.
"From the first time she played with us, I think that was Dallas... she was very aggressive," Tianna Hawkins said. "She just got in and fit in when she could and she hasn't backed down. She's a competitor and she's gonna give her all every night and she has a lot of confidence. I love it."
That aggression is paying off quickly. Her 9.8 ppg is fourth-best on the roster behind Delle Donne, Atkins, and Natasha Cloud. She's also shooting 52.8% from the field (2nd-best) and a team-high 42.9% from deep.
It's allowing her to fit in right away on a team that has a pretty stout top nine on the depth chart.
Nights where she can hit timely threes when the rest of the offense is struggling to see it go through the net make her stand out even more. All of last season the Mystics couldn't find consistency from their role players when Tina Charles was having an off-night or the attention was spread out to the other stars.
"I think part of it is that she had such a good season overseas, that she's come in right from that and has a positive vibe about how she's playing," Thibault said. "She shot the ball well overseas, shot over 40% from three there so that's carried over to us. The fact that she can defend and switch out and play point guards and power forwards and wing players and defend just anywhere on the floor, I think that's been a big plus for us too. And I think she sees how she can contribute in that area too."
Off the court, she is quickly assimilating to the vocal activism of the team as well. In her past two media availabilities, she's only talked about the Uvalde, Texas shooting and held a blackout to discuss Brittney Griner's detainment in Russia. Openly she's said she doesn't want to speak out on issues that don't directly affect her, but knows it's part of her responsibility as an African-American woman.
Once Delle Donne and Clark return to the lineup Burke will take a step back in the rotation. She's done a phenomenal job in a short period of time to prove her value on an aspiring championship roster. However, the depth she's competing against puts her far down the pecking order.
But whenever the Mystics need to call Burke's number, they know they have someone to rely upon.