The Washington Times - October 2, 2009, 06:50PM

Talked with Maryland forward Jerome Burney about an hour ago, and he confirmed his career – and not just his redshirt junior season – is over.

Back when he and I talked in July, it seemed likely this decision would eventually be made. And it turns out Burney has known for more than a month he would be seguing from basketball to a potential career down the road as a personal trainer a little early.

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Burney said he’d spend this season as the team’s assistant strength and conditioning coach, helping out Paul Ricci in any way he could. Here’s the highlights of our discussion:

Q: I know in July you were pretty close to accepting how things had gone with your career. How do you feel about the decision?

JB: I feel a lot better about it because if I had to make the decision, I was ready. I feel more comfortable.

Q: What was the result of some of the exams you had planned after we talked in the summer?

JB: I talked to the doctor at Kaiser Permanente and he basically asked me some questions. He was looking at my X-rays after I had some bone tests. He said ‘Well, your bones are fine.’ If I had calcification [problems] from it, maybe I could drink more milk or something. Since I didn’t have that, it was because the bones aren’t structured properly to handle the way I play. Maybe if I played another way, I could play. I play above the rim, so my feet can’t handle it.

Q: So basically, your career is over?

JB: Yeah.

Q: Are you going to wind up helping out Paul Ricci in the weight room this season?

JB: I’m labeled as the assistant strength and conditioning coach. I’m also trying to get internship credit. I’ll try to see about that. I like doing that. I like instructing people with the proper way to lift, and it helps me stay in shape.

Q: Will you be on the bench, home and away, throughout this season?

JB: I haven’t talked about that yet. I’ll waiting until the season draws near. Right now, I’m the assistant strength and conditioning coach, and basically I give Paul a hand. Or I might see and just watch over parts of the team Paul says I can handle. Actually, he’s starting to split the teams in the program, so I’ll watch one group and he’ll watch another. Or sometimes I’m spotting them.

Q: So have you been out watching the team’s pickup games?

JB: I watched Monday, a little bit Monday. I got back on the court yesterday for the first time since February. I think that was Feb. 28. That was seven months. It was the first in seven months I actually played. Surprisingly, I wasn’t tired. I don’t like to run too much, but I wasn’t even that tired.

Q: Is this a decision you just came to, or did you have a strong idea already this was it?

JB: I knew that was it. I know I can still play the game, but I know with the constant practicing and games, my feet wouldn’t be able to handle the stress of a season. Me playing pickup two to three times a week, that’s OK because I’d not be doing much. But practicing one-to-three-hours, four, five, six days out of the week and then when we don’t practice add a game or two, and my body can’t handle it. If it’s just pickup, I know my body will have time to rest. If I feel like my feet are giving me problems, I could sit or play once or sit out the whole week. Whereas with basketball, I have to be there.

Q: When did you know for sure, and how supportive have people been since you told them?

JB: The first person I told was Paul, and then kind of like if I wanted to tell my business to you, I’d tell you. I really wasn’t telling people I wasn’t going to be back. A lot of fans said ‘Rome, I hope you’ll be back.’ But people closer to me, I told them I wasn’t coming back. It was – I told [assistant coach] Rob [Ehsan] right when I came back [to College Park], around mid-August.

Q: Anything else on your mind?

JB: Let everybody know I’m still at Maryland. I’m not transferring as some bloggers are spreading rumors about. I’m still here supporting the team, the whole year in fact.

Patrick Stevens