KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Before Rae Burrell was a standout at Tennessee, she was a multisport athlete in the Las Vegas, Nevada area.
The 6’1″ guard/forward grew up playing soccer and set a high jump record in the Nevada track and field high school state championships. Her playing days on the pitch, she said, translated to her game on the court.
“With soccer, you have to have good footwork, I think that translated to basketball with how good my footwork is,” said Burrell.
But basketball is in her blood. Her mother, Anne, was a post-player for the University of Nevada, Reno, and spent some time playing overseas. Naturally, Burrell spent a ton of time on the basketball court. She joined AAU basketball during her sophomore year of high school. As a senior, she averaged 14.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.5 assists and was a McDonald’s All-American Game nominee.
But Burrell came to Tennessee with something to prove.
“I feel like I’ve always been kind of an underdog,” said Burrell. “I came in and I was the only one who wasn’t a McDonalds All-American out of the three other class that I came in with. Nobody knew my name so it was up to me to work hard and get my name out there.”
People know her name now. Burrell finished her four-year career in orange and white ranked No. 36 on UT’s all-time scoring list with 1,131 total points.
“I’m just really grateful for the opportunity cause without Tennessee and everything that it brought me I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now,” reflected Burrell.
Her career as a Lady Vol did not end without trials and tribulations. The guard remained faithful to the orange and white through coaching changes and had to battle back from her first major injury in her senior season.
“I feel like it was harder mentally than physically just not being able to play especially when the team is doing so well,” said Burrell.
The Vegas native turned to guided meditations she found on YouTube to assist her with maintaining a positive outlook through tough times.
“It calmed my nerves a lot and took a lot of stress off of me. I try to still do that now.”
Burrell set her intentions to return to the court and worked her back to averaging 16.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in her last five games including the SEC and NCAA Tournaments. She even dropped a season-high 22 in the Lady Vols’ first sweet 16 appearance since 2016.
“I didn’t want to be done and I wanted to keep going,” said Burrell. “I just wanted to give my all and go all out.”
Despite the adversity, Burrell is immensely grateful for her time at Tennessee. Her basketball has vastly grown especially under head coach Kellie Harper.
“Just making sure I’m not rushing stuff and reading the defense and making sure the game is slowing down for me,” said Burrell. “She [Harper] knew I was always, “go, go, go,” so, she would tell me to read the defense and slow down.”
Burrell is a projected first-round draft pick, slotted to be taken anywhere from 7th to 12th overall. She spent the past few weeks training with Sean Green at Priority 1 Athletics.
“Working on cleaning up things, her footwork, getting her to move better, and being more efficient with her steps that way she can attack immediately,” said Green.
Burrell is one of 12 prospects in New York City for the WNBA Draft. If she hears her name called, she will become the 44th Lady Vol taken in all WNBA Drafts. A legacy she takes great pride in carrying on, no matter what the future holds.
“There are only so many people that get to say that and it just opens up so many opportunities for you to be a Lady Vol For Life. And then I also get to be a part of that legacy so it’s amazing,” said Burrell.