Eastlake Wolves girls basketball player Keeli Burton thought she knew what authentic Italian food tasted like before she made a trip overseas.
Burton, who was selected to compete on the 2018 Adidas Girls USA Select team at the Adidas All-American Camp, was in Treviso, Italy from June 5-16 to partake in an experience of a lifetime, not only on the court but off the court as well. The USA team had an overall record of 2-1 in its three contests at the basketball extravaganza.
“What I thought of Italy for an American standpoint, it was completely different in Italy. It is gorgeous there and the food was different. The Italian food in America is not what the Italian food is in Italy,” Burton said with a smile on June 27 at the Pine Lake Starbucks in Sammamish. “I think we were all kind of thrown off by that. We had to get used to it and it was super cool. We had a lot of time to walk around and see what people our age do with their time. We talked to a few people we tried to have them teach us Italian (language). It was really fun.”
Burton’s 11 other teammates on the United States squad came from eight states across the country, including Missouri, California, Texas, Wisconsin, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas and Washington. Burton said with the exception of one her best friends Talia VonOelhoffen, she didn’t know many of her teammates before the trip to Italy.
“Since I hadn’t really been on the Adidas circuit that long, I didn’t really know anybody there, but I actually ended up loving all the girls on the team. They were all super cool. It was a super fun experience,” Burton said.
Burton’s mother Cindi watched all three of her daughter’s games via a live-stream feed. She had admitted it was hard to be away from her 16-year-old daughter for almost two weeks.
“On the third day, I started freaking out a little bit because she has always traveled with me. It was weird to realize how far away she was but I was able to watch all of her games. That was exciting and made it better,” Cindi Burton said.
Burton is following in the footsteps of her mother on the hardwood. Cindi played collegiate basketball at Ventura College (two seasons), University of Texas at El Paso (one season) and at Seattle Pacific University (one season) in the late 1990s.
“She has definitely surpassed my footsteps. She is way better than I ever was. For a while, I had a hard time admitting that,” Cindi Burton said. “She finally beat me in one-on-one last year and I realized she was a lot better than me.”
Burton said competing on the grand stage in Italy gave her a jolt of confidence, which she believes will carry over to the 2018-19 high school season.
“I have figured out that I can do a lot more things than I thought I could. I have gotten more comfortable going out of my comfort zone of what I usually play. My inside game definitely right now is my best strength but what I have realized is that I’m not 6 feet, 9 inches tall (Burton is 6 feet, 3 inches). When I get to college, I’m not going to be playing the position (center) I’m used to playing. I’m excited to try those new things and get myself ready for the next level (college),” Burton explained.
Burton said she has focused on ball handling and shooting from the perimeter during Eastlake’s summer workouts with her teammates. The Wolves, who captured fifth place at the Class 4A state girls basketball tournament this past March, graduated seniors Gina Marxen, Cameron Edward, Stacie Keck and Elizabeth Chen in June. Despite the loss of a superb senior class, Burton is confident the Wolves will continue to thrive on the hardwood. Burton, junior forward Mae Bryant and sophomore guard Haley Huard will see their roles expand greatly this coming season.
“Mae and Haley are going to be great. I love both of them and they’re both really good at what they do. Even though we lost some players, we still maintain a lot of good people. If we just stick to what we know, stay level-headed and keep ourselves under control, I think we’ll do pretty good,” Burton said.