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Burke feasts on Turkey

Ashley Burke may have to wait to put her sociology degree to work, but she can still use what she learned in her four years at Gonzaga University.

The recent GU graduate from North Vancouver, British Columbia, is headed for Izmir, Turkey, next week to participate in the World University Games as a member of the Canadian Women’s Basketball Development National Team.

“I’ve never been to Europe,” Burke said. “It should be a good experience.”

The University Games run Aug. 11-21.

Gonzaga finished 28-4 last season, and Burke led the Bulldogs with 14.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game while shooting 53.7 percent from the floor. The three-time All-West Coast Conference first-team selection completed her career ranked first in school history in field-goal percentage, third in rebounds and fourth in scoring.

After a freshman season that saw the Zags finish 11-18 (2-12 in the WCC), Burke’s career concluded with the school’s first national ranking and a record 23-game winning streak that stretched through a 14-0 conference season. The Bulldogs also made the postseason WNIT for the third time in school history and second year in a row, winning a home game against Brigham Young before losing at Southwest Missouri State.

“Gonzaga definitely prepared me for the opportunity,” Burke said. “I would not have had it without my teammates and (coaches). They gave me confidence and helped me with my game.”

Burke isn’t the only Bulldogs player representing Canada in international competition. Sophomore guard Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes made the Under-21 men’s team that will compete at U-21 FIBA World Championship in Argentina Aug. 5-14.

Burke, a 6-foot-1 forward, attended the combined Senior and Developmental tryouts at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, earlier this month with hope of making the national team.

“I thought I had a good chance to make the (developmental) team and an outside chance at the national team because a lot of players retired,” she said.

“I just went for it.”

After the cuts for the national team, University Games coach Stu Jones, the coach at Wilfrid Laurier, made an initial cut to 15 players for his squad before paring the roster to 12.

Burke started one of two scrimmage games before the camp broke up on July 18.

“We had individual meetings and went over our roles,” Burke said. “He said I would definitely get some playing time. When we play against smaller, quicker lineups is when I’ll get to play a lot.”

Breanne Watson, a sophomore at Washington from Richmond, British Columbia, also made the team. The group leaves Vancouver next Wednesday and the team will head for Turkey to get acclimated to the conditions.

“I’m confident. I don’t have anything to lose, it will be a great experience,” Burke said. “It’s a good opportunity to play against some other good players. It should be exciting.”

Canada isn’t in the same pool as the United States team, which includes national player of the year Seimone Augustus from Louisiana State, Liz Shimek from Michigan State, and first-team All-Americans Monique Currie of Duke and Jessica Davenport of Ohio State.

Burke said her agent should know in the next couple of weeks if she has a spot to play in Europe next season.

She said GU teammate Shannon Mathews, the WCC Player of the Year, is in the same position, and Bulldogs teammate Delphine Lecoultre has returned to her native France to play.

“New Boise State coach Gordie Presnell has hired two GU assistants, J.R. Payne and Toriano Towns, to complete his staff.

Payne, a former player at Saint Mary’s, came to GU with Kelly Graves, her coach at the Moraga, Calif., school. She was the Bulldogs’ recruiting coordinator and coached perimeter players.

Towns, another Saint Mary’s graduate, was with Graves for three seasons before going to the University of Arizona, where he worked with posts and helped in recruiting and scouting.

Presnell, a native of Lapwai, Idaho, was the coach at Seattle Pacific for 18 years, compiling a record of 396-127. Last season the Falcons reached the NCAA Division II championship game.

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