Nakeia Burks needed a reminder when things got tough, a reminder to keep pushing when things got hard for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga junior guard.
Three words tattooed onto her left wrist prior to last season — "I am enough" — have provided that.
Burks, one of three fourth-year members of the UTC women's basketball team, had her second ACL tear last season, knocking her out of all but four games. Now back with two healthy knees, the 5-foot-10 guard is ready to offer a veteran presence to Katie Burrows' first team as a head coach.
"I have doubted myself in different areas of life," Burks said before the Mocs' first practice Thursday. "With (the tattoo) being right here on my hand, it allows me to see it and remember to keep pushing, that I'm here for a reason. Coach (Jim) Foster told me that a lot, that he recruited me here for a reason, and that's just a little reminder.
"When it comes to playing, there's always somebody quicker than you are, taller than you are, and because I think a lot, I can't allow that to mess with me. I'm here for a reason; I bring something to the team. I can't let that stop me."
Burks was one of now-retired Coach Foster's recruits in the 2015 signing class. Along with seniors Shelbie Davenport and Molly Melton, Burks can help guide a team with eight sophomores and freshmen and give some insight into what Burrows and the coaching staff are looking for.
"Last year just being on the sideline and trying to coach up the girls from there, I think Nakeia was able to learn a lot off the court and see things from our perspective," Burrows said. "She hasn't been shy this preseason; she's playing hard and going to the rim.
"We're going to need that experience out there."
Burks said that last season helped her realize there were things she needed to work on, namely moving without the ball, communication and her defense — little things, as she put it. She thinks a year away from playing helped her become more educated as she helps the Mocs into the 2018-19 season.
"I want us to grow as a team and get to know each other more on and off the court," she said. "The first six weeks did a lot of that. I want us to have fun with Coach Katie; her playing style is not like Coach Foster's.
"I'm excited. I'm ready to get started."
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