Highly acclaimed and nationally recruited freshmen have become staples to head coach Chris Beard’s incoming recruiting classes through his time at Texas Tech. Perhaps none have garnered more preseason attention than guard Nimari Burnett.
Burnett is the second-highest rated recruit in Tech’s history, behind only the new Sacramento Kings' guard, Jahmi’us Ramsey, according to 247Sports. Burnett is the only Tech commit to be rated a five-star by ESPN and is also the singular McDonald’s All-American in school history.
On opening night, the highly anticipated debut of the freshman, Burnett played a reserve role and came off the bench. In 19 minutes, he scored only two points, committed two turnovers and shot just 14.3 percent from the field, according to Sports Reference.
It was not all bad for the guard, who also had two assists and a steal, but still a rather unexpected performance. The struggles for Burnett, particularly on the offensive end, would not end there.
Over the next three games, Burnett would score just 15 points, commit nine turnovers and shoot 5-of-14 from the field, according to Sports Reference.
“With Nimari, it’s just gonna be how aggressive he can play,” Beard said in a postgame media availability after a 80-46 victory against Troy. “He’s a talented guy, he’s a big part of our plan here. He’ll have to continue to run his own race.
“Obviously, the turnovers are something that just can’t happen at this level, and I’m sure he’ll be the first to be back in the film room tomorrow working on it.”
For freshmen, finding a rhythm in a new system can be a difficult adjustment.
“I think Nimari is like other great players around the country – trying to find that fine line between being very aggressive and playing his game, but also understanding the urgency of each possession at this level,” Beard said on Burnett’s game in a postgame media availability after a victory over Troy.
Burnett would apply this message and quickly adjust his game, particularly showing a new-founded aggressiveness on the offense end. As he began putting his head down and getting to the basket, the shots began to fall.
Over the past three games, Burnett has scored 27 points. Perhaps the greatest asset to the increase in his offensive production has been free throws. Burnett shot just 3-for-4 from the free-throw line his first four games. That number has skyrocketed to 20-for-23 over his last three.
The defensive end of the floor has continued to be a strong suit for Burnett. Over his last three games, he has accumulated nine steals. Six of those came in the game against Grambling, which was the highest number of steals a Red Raider has had in a game since Jarrett Culver also had six against Rice on Dec. 16, 2017.
Burnett continuing to be confident with the ball will be important for the Red Raiders in an especially competitive Big 12 Conference slate.
“I feel like I’ve progressed well . . . just being confident with it (the ball), being secure with it, and making the right reads,” Burnett said in a postgame media availability on his offensive improvement after a 81-40 victory over Grambling.