To see Tashiya Burlingame on the basketball court for the first time was like watching a newborn colt gain its legs and run around the corral: a little wobbly at times but unabashedly happy to be there.
Few Bryan County girls' basketball fans have any clue as to who Burlingame is as the senior guard is in her first year of playing for the Redskins after moving from the Boston area last fall. That’s Boston as in Massachusetts.
Because this is her first year of playing basketball, her court time has been limited--although she’s seeing more action here as of late. Playing time issues are not because it’s her first year of playing for Bryan County but because it’s her first time ever playing basketball.
“I didn’t know anything at all about basketball,” Burlingame said. “I mean nothing. Absolutely nothing.”
Cheerleading is Burlingame’s sport. Something she’s been doing since she was six years old. She was a cheerleader for the football team’s 12-2 run last fall.
The girl now known as “Sweet Tea” didn’t arrive in town until school was starting. But with her background in cheerleading and a school that is welcoming and willing to give all students a chance to participate, she quickly found her way onto the cheerleading squad.
In talking to her newly made friends and learning basketball was a pretty cool thing, Burlingame decided she would like to play. Fortunately, she found a coach willing to take her on.
“I had heard Coach (Mario) Mincey was a really nice man and a good coach so I decided to ask him about playing basketball,” Burlingame said. “Although I didn’t know anything about the game, he agreed to let me play. He and all of the other coaches and players have been very encouraging and supportive
“Coach Mincey is a great teacher. He has taught me a lot. He’s worked me hard and although I had no clue about basketball, he’s made me good enough that I get to play in games now. I really love it. My teammates are great. We’re a family.”
Mincey had no qualms about taking on a player with Burlingame’s non-existent basketball background.
“She’s right, she didn’t know anything about basketball,” Mincey said. “But I’m not going to turn anyone away. This is high school and If they’re willing to work and do what we ask then I believe in giving them a chance.
“She’s a player now. She’s not a novelty. She’s stuck it out and is getting the job done.”
With four players out due to injury and illness going into Tuesday night’s game with St. Vincent’s Academy, she was given a starting nod and rewarded Mincey’s faith by scoring 13 points in a 67-39 game that was a 27-22 squeaker at the half.
“I told her at game time she was starting,” Mincey said. “I told her to just go out and play like she practices. She did and she had a good game.”
There’s no questioning her popularity with her teammates.
Earlier in the season she hit a 3-pointer against Screven County and immediately turned to the bench with her hands thrust out at her side as if to say, “Can you believe that!” and what she saw was a group of players who were cheering for her like she had just made a game-winner.
Against SVA she hit a trio of treys and shot them as if she expected to make them. She also had about a half dozen rebounds and helped create several turnovers.
Needless to say, moving to Ellabell with her mom, Simone Jones, from the Boston suburbs represented quite a change for Burlingame.
“It was a shock and surprise that we wound up in Georgia,” Burlingame said. “I, of course, didn’t know anyone but everybody at school was so welcoming. The teachers are great. I’ve made some really good friends
“And playing basketball has really helped me academically and to stay out of trouble. I’m more disciplined and focused.”