When Cheryl Burnett took the helm of the Michigan women’s
basketball team last fall after the tumultuous resignation of Sue
Guevara, many hoped that it would be the last major change the
program would endure for a long time.

But the team will get another makeover next season. In addition
to departing seniors Jennifer Smith and Stephanie Gandy, three
other Wolverines have announced they are leaving the team.
Sophomores Niki Reams, Mie Burlin and Lauren Andrews have all been
granted permission to transfer to other basketball programs of
their choice.

“These three players have decided to leave the program on
their own accord and we wish them the best,” Burnett said in
a statement yesterday.

With the loss of these three sophomores and the two seniors,
this year’s team has been cut from 11 to six. Four recruits
have signed letters of intent to join next year’s team.

The biggest jolt to the team will be Reams’s absence. The
forward has been a regular contributor since she arrived last year.
The Jenison native started 20 games and scored a career-best 19
points twice during her freshman campaign under former coach
Guevara. In the beginning of her sophomore season, she was
regularly in Burnett’s starting lineup.

But after suffering a foot injury midway through the season,
freshman Kelly Helvey replaced Reams in the starting lineup. Even
after her foot had healed, Reams saw less playing time than before
her injury.

s Reams refused to comment on the situation. Burnett was vague
about the players’ reasons in her statement.

“The reasons for each player’s decision is specific
to that player, and we respect their individual choice of
action,” Burnett said.

Burlin, a 24-year-old native of Skovlunde, Denmark, has received
an offer from a club basketball program in Spain. She said she is
strongly considering joining the team for its playoff games after
the end of Michigan’s winter semester.

“I don’t want to play basketball forever, but I want
to end my basketball time (actually) playing,” Burlin
said.

“I feel like I can do that somewhere else. I’ve
thought about this a lot. I’ve talked to my family and
I’ve talked to the coaches. And they all thought that this
was a good decision for me.”

Burlin originally signed with Michigan seeking the success that
fellow Denmark native Anne Thorius — who averaged 8.4 points
per game her senior year — found playing under Guevara.

During her freshman year under Guevara, Burlin started 10 games
and averaged 14.1 minutes per game. She did not regularly add to
Michigan’s offense, averaging just 2.1 points per game.

But as a sophomore — after Burnett took over as
Michigan’s coach — Burlin never started and saw her
court time nearly cut in half to 7.2 minutes per game. Her number
of total points, rebounds, assists and steals all went down.

Despite Burnett’s decision to keep her off the court,
Burlin said that she has no hard feelings toward the head coach or
any other members of the staff.

“Coach Burnett had her reasons to play the players she
played … but I can play somewhere else and I can do better
than just sit on the bench and that’s what I want to
do,” Burlin said.

When asked whether she felt the new coaching staff was a
positive change for the program, Burlin said that both the current
and former staffs had their own unique strengths.

“They are two completely different coaching staffs,”
Burlin said. “Coach Burnett is an awesome coach and an
awesome person. She’s done a lot of good things for the
program. I won’t say that I prefer her over (Guevara). Coach
G did good things for the program also.”

While Andrews declined to also comment when contacted by The
Michigan Daily, she may be leaving the team for similar reasons to
Burlin. Andrews also saw her average game minutes drop this season
— from 16.3 to 9.4 — as well as declines in other
statistical categories.

Neither Andrews nor Reams have announced whether they will stay
at Michigan or transfer to other schools.

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