God, Family, School And Basketball Lead Burgess To SPU
Ashlynn Burgess earned Honorable Mention All-GNAC honors in 2019-20 after she finished with 11.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.
Ashlynn Burgess earned Honorable Mention All-GNAC honors in 2019-20 after she finished with 11.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.
Ashlynn Burgess
Ashlynn Burgess

Monday, January 25, 2021
by Kaho Akau, GNAC Media Relations Assistant

SEATTLE – Ashlynn Burgess prioritizes her life in the following order: God, family, school and basketball.

A senior forward, Burgess transferred to Seattle Pacific University in 2019 after two years at Wenatchee Valley College in central Washington. But before she officially decided what school she was going to transfer to, she prayed a lot.

“My faith is everything to me,” Burgess said. “It’s one of the biggest things that motivated me to play college basketball. When I decided to come to Seattle Pacific, I had a lot of peace about the decision so I trusted God with it.”

Faith runs in the Burgess family. Ashlynn’s father, Mark, is a pastor, and her mother, Valerie, is a licensed minister. Ashlynn grew up being at church every day in her hometown of Eagle River, Alaska. She played in the church band, regularly volunteered at events and offered plenty of assistance to her parents.

Some of Ashlynn’s most memorable experiences of her youth came through missionary work in Alaska. She served at a children’s day camp in Kodiak. She was a part of a construction team that flew to Dillingham to help remodel and put the finishing touches on a local church. Even during her time in Wenatchee, she volunteered weekly during the summer with an outreach program at Awaken Wenatchee Church.

Giving back and showing appreciation is something that Burgess takes pride in. She searched for a school and community that would allow her to do just that while also giving her the best chance to succeed in the classroom and on the court. Then she came across Seattle Pacific.

“I needed to recruit players that would transform our team’s culture,” said Mike Simonson, who took over as the Falcons’ head coach in 2018-19 after serving as an assistant for two years. “The No. 1 attribute we were looking for was passion and Ashlynn is one of the most passionate players I have ever come across. I will never forget the first time I watched her play. After watching her play once, I knew she would be a perfect fit for us.”

A lot of things about Seattle stood out to Burgess. It’s a big city that’s not too far from home with endless food and coffee options. Beautiful hikes and adventures are also just a short drive away for the outdoor enthusiast in her.

Seattle Pacific gave her the positive team culture and change of scenery that she was looking for. As she kept in touch with her future coaches and teammates throughout summer 2019, she knew that SPU checked all the boxes.

“I remember thinking that I would love to live in Seattle for school,” Burgess said. “It turns out I was right. The transition was good for me. Having those connections before I arrived at SPU helped me jump right in.”

When Burgess arrived at Seattle Pacific, she immediately inserted herself into a leadership role. In 2019-20, her first season with the Falcons, she was named a team captain alongside former SPU standout Hailee Bennett. It’s not every day that a newcomer is selected to be a team captain, but Burgess was up to the task.

“I was thankful to be trusted with that responsibility,” she said. “Every person on the team had a different role and I just really wanted to embrace the leadership role that I stepped into. I trusted God and my teammates with everything else.”

Joining a new team can be intimidating. Burgess had to learn a completely different system. The people were new. The plays were new. Everything was new. The only thing that stayed constant was her game.

Burgess was crashing for rebounds, diving on the floor for loose balls and cheering for her teammates when she was on the bench. It was exactly how Simonson remembered her playing at Wenatchee Valley. The rest of the team saw that and followed the example she set.

“Ultimately, it’s in Ashlynn’s DNA to work hard and strive for excellence,” Simonson said. “Her attaining a leadership role was just a product of her being secure in who she is as a person and others noticing and following.”

Staying true to herself was what made Burgess successful in her first year in a Seattle Pacific jersey. She felt right at home at Brougham Pavilion.

Burgess finished fourth in the conference with a .548 field goal percentage and fifth with a .818 free throw percentage. She averaged 11.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game to earn Honorable Mention All-GNAC honors.

“I was surprised but in a good way,” Burgess said about her all-conference selection.

Just as Burgess jumped right in on the court, she did the same on campus. She joined the Seattle Pacific Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) to be a voice for her team and to advocate for causes that are important to SPU athletics.

“I wanted to be a part of the athletics community in a bigger way than just playing a sport,” she said. “Being in SAAC has taught me that good leadership is about being able to bring people of vastly different backgrounds, opinions and motivations together with a common goal.”

Now in her senior campaign, Burgess looks to build on her recent success and continue to transform the team’s culture. That hasn’t been easy with local, state and federal COVID-19 regulations still in effect.

In the fall, the team could only practice and lift weights in pods of five players. December was the first time that the entire team was allowed to practice together. The players and coaches get tested regularly, face masks have to be worn at all times and athletics facilities are limited as a result of the pandemic.

All of those obstacles made the first game of the season against Division III Pacific Lutheran feel surreal. Burgess had never been so happy to be playing in a game that had no implications in the conference standings.

“Playing our first game this season was amazing,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to play a game. The team was so ready to play against players other than our own and put our preparation to use.”

Burgess has become a cornerstone during her short stint with the Falcons. The university and city have given her a second chance to play college basketball, obtain a degree in electrical engineering and experience a change of pace. She jumped on those opportunities in a heartbeat to make the most of her time at SPU.

From being a newcomer to being named team captain to leading her teammates through a pandemic, she has always remembered the four pillars of her life: God, family, school and basketball.

“We expect Ashlynn to keep growing our culture and be a steady rock for our young players,” Simonson said. “She is someone we can rely on and her love for the game is infectious. My hope is that she cements her legacy at SPU and is a crucial instrument for our future success.”

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