Men’s Basketball Coaches Reflect on the Legacy of Jordan Burns


Colgate Athletics/Jordan Doroshenko

FROM COLGATE TO THE NBA: Patriot League Champ Jordan Burns signs an Exhibit 10 deal with his hometown San Antonio Spurs.

“It’s kind of a funny story,” Colgate Head Men’s Basketball Coach Matt Langel said. “I’ve shared it throughout his career and with other players.”

Langel is referring to Colgate alumnus Jordan Burns’ first visit to campus as a high school student and prospective basketball recruit. Burns, who, on Oct. 11, signed an Exhibit 10 deal with the San Antonio Spurs, graduated from the University last year. 

“We had [Burns] come in from San Antonio, Texas, with his mom and dad. We offered a plan and an opportunity to be able to study and play at Colgate. We thought the visit was great, that we made a great connection.”

Two weeks later, the Colgate basketball department received a call from Burns. He told them that he was not going to pursue the recruitment plan with Colgate and that he planned to attend a Division II school in Texas. 

“Ultimately, he had some other folks in his life, in addition to his parents, that talked to him about what the opportunity at Colgate would mean for his career and future,” Langel said. “Fortunately, he changed his mind, and the rest is history.”

Since Burns’ first year, the Colgate men’s basketball team has ranked number one in the Patriot League in total wins, Patriot League wins, Patriot League championship appearances and regular-season titles. Burns contributed more and more to these team successes each year as he developed as a player.

“He didn’t always want to listen to the coaches his first couple years,” Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach Pat Moore said. 

Perhaps this was because he had a mental concept of the game, according to Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Jordan.

“He had very good vision. [Burns] was able to see the floor and could locate where the ball should be going mentally.”

Burns, bold in character, unafraid to call out his teammates or coaches, was also highly self-motivated, all of his coaches noted.

“He had a hunger and desire to always want to get better, he was never satisfied with where he [was] as a player and a person,” Jordan said. “He was always in the gym, just trying to better himself. ”

Burns ended his first year on the team with 268 points, 69 rebounds and 85 assists. He ended his junior year, his last full season of play for Colgate due to the pandemic, with 370 points, 82 rebounds, and 93 assists. 

Burns’ hunger for success was especially clear his sophomore year, when, after chipping his ankle and subsequently missing five league games, he scored 35 points against Bucknell in a championship game, not only leading his team to a title but also smashing a Patriot League tournament record. 

“After our first Patriot League title, sophomore year, I thanked him,” Moore said. “It’s because of guys like Jordan Burns that have brought this program to the level that it is today.”

Burns’ show against Bucknell earned Colgate its first Patriot League Championship title since 1996. 

Burns now holds Colgate’s career assists record, and, his senior year, was named Patriot League Player of the Year. 

However, it is not these accomplishments that Burns’s coaches are most proud of. 

“What I’m most proud of in him is how he grew as a person during his time at Colgate,” Langel said. “He found sociology as a major and used that part of this education to learn a lot about some issues that were really important to him and share them with other people.”

Langel added that he cares most about what Burns accomplished outside the gym. 

“Just as important [as his sporting achievements], if not more, was what he accomplished off the court, how he helped guide the team and work with other student-athletes, building the championship program.” 

Moore and Langel shared that Burns’ close relationship with his family was instrumental in shaping him into the person and athlete he became. 

“They’re there for him all the time, through thick and thin,” Langel shared. “They’re his biggest fans. When you have that love and support. In some down times, in some hard times, they have certainly lifted him up.”

Langel reminisced on one particular experience where Burns’s brothers, Jaylon and Joshua, showed their love for their older brother. 

“When it got late in the season, we’re on this championship run, Cotterall Court was packed, a lot of students usually sit in the endzone. His brothers would be there underneath the basket with big Fathead cutouts of his, his jersey on, cheering him on.”

Burns, too, Langel said, reciprocated his family’s support, uplifting them whenever he had the chance.

“Whatever they were doing, in music or entrepreneurship, whatever it was, he was always talking about his family, trying to celebrate their accomplishments.”

Burns brings some of this regard for supporting those around him onto the court. Langel compared him to the current coach of the Brooklyn Nets, Steve Nash, a multi-time MVP of the NBA. Nash is known for always high-fiving his teammates, encouraging them with actions and positive body language. 

“Jordan did that on our team, we’d be doing shooting drills or passing drills, and he would always be high-fiving everybody, and everybody was always high-fiving each other,” Langel said. “[Burns] was there for [the team] and they were always there for each other, and I think this was a small symbol of that.”

Burns will soon enter training camp with the San Antonio Spurs. His recruitment was managed by Daniel Green, who was also a former Colgate Raider. This is a non-guaranteed one-year contract that the Spurs can convert to a two-way contract before the beginning of the regular season.

“Being around him, knowing his determination, I know he has a bright future as a player,” Langel said. “ There are certain things you can control — how you act, how you train, how you prepare, what kind of teammate you are — I’m confident that he does all of those things to give himself the very best chance that he can.”

Burns’ journey, from his near dismissal of Colgate’s recruitment offer after his tour to winning a Patriot League Championship title for the university, is exceptional and unforgettable, leaving the school excited to see what lies ahead.