CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team hasn't had much to cheer about lately, but you wouldn't know it by watching Jahmal Burroughs.
The team's unquestioned leader in hustle, heart and high-fives, Burroughs is usually the source of the few smiles seen these days around McKenzie Arena.
"I can't explain it," junior guard Dontay Hampton said of Burroughs' personality. "Even before the games he's bouncing around. He just always has that energy."
While negativity has grown around a program that has lost eight of its last night games, it doesn't seem possible for Burroughs to be anything but positive.
"It's been said I have no happy medium," he said with a grin. "I'm either lazy or I'm going as hard as I can possibly go."
The Mocs have watched that progression over the past 12 months.
As a junior college transfer a year ago, Burroughs was a little more reserved and inconsistent while trying to find his role on a new team. Now a senior, the 6-foot-6 forward has assumed a leading role on an experienced team.
"Transferring from a junior college back to a division one school, and a new program at that, it was tough learning everything," he said. "But this is my second year and I'm playing better and feeling more comfortable. I'm able to feel things out a little more."
And it's never hard to tell how he's feeling.
His energy is obvious and infectious on the court. He fist pumps and chest bumps and is the first to pick a teammate up off the floor.
"He's our energy guy. He's our emotional leader, no doubt," said head coach John Shulman.
Burroughs' impact has been as obvious as his emotions. He missed three games with a hamstring injury during the Mocs' seven-game losing streak.
"It was definitely tough. Sitting there watching your team go through these things knowing that you could help them," Burroughs said. "I was not at 100-percent, but I was determined to play."
And so he did, ahead of schedule last Thursday against Elon. He came off the bench with 11 points and 9 rebounds, adding a shot-clock beating jumper in the closing minutes to help secure a slump-busting win.
He followed it with a 10-point, 11-rebound effort Saturday in a one-point loss to UNC-Greensboro.
"Jahmal has been the spark that's brought us back," Shulman said. "He played with great emotion against Elon and played great against Greensboro.
"If he can continue to do that, he gives us a chance to have success at the end of the season."
Being UTC's emotional leader is a role Burroughs takes very seriously, and one that fits him quite well.
The Louisiana native doesn't often get down these days. After all, losing a basketball game pales in comparison to the adversity he faced while surviving Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in high school.
He has seen first-hand the second-chances that can come when one doesn't give up hope, so he'll keep pushing his teammates forward to what he hopes will be a defining moment at the Southern Conference Tournament in early March.
"It's your responsibility as a senior to be an emotional leader and a leader of the team," he said. "The seniors have done that and we're staying positive. I still believe in this team, and everyone on this team believes in this team. I believe that we can do it."
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