NC State's DJ Burns overcame hurdles, carried Pack to Final Four in win vs. Duke

On3 imageby:Noah Fleischman03/31/24

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DJ Burns
Mar 31, 2024; Dallas, TX, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack forward DJ Burns Jr. (30) celebrates with the trophy after defeating the Duke Blue Devils in the finals of the South Regional of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at American Airline Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS — By the time DJ Burns reached the top of the blue and yellow ladder on the hardwood at American Airlines Center to cut the net down, he took a deep breath.  That pause was all that was needed to encapsulate the path Burns took to carry NC State past Duke 76-64 in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight, punching the Pack’s ticket to its first Final Four since 1983, on Sunday afternoon.  Burns, a former Winthrop transfer, has dealt with a lot in his basketball journey. His weight, which he has worked to manage over the years, has been a main topic. He gets railed for his 6-foot-9, 275-pound frame by opposing teams’ fans, but it was the thing that helped get him to this moment: a chance to play for a Final Four.  NC State coach Kevin Keatts and his staff laid out a plan for Burns at a point this season, knowing they would need him to play at his best if the Wolfpack wanted to have a chance to even sniff the NCAA Tournament. Well, he accomplished that ten-fold.