"I'm very proud of my Nevada career," Burton said on Tuesday night, less than 48 hours before Draft night and exactly a month before his 23rd birthday (some reports have stated his birthday as June 26, which is draft night, however, Burton's birthday is July 26). "It hasn't sunk in yet that it's really over with. I still think that we can do better, you know, that a Tournament bid is within our reach. If there's anything I regret, that's what it would be.
"I hope that the effort I put out there on the court is what people will remember me for at Nevada. Because I gave it my all."
"But at the same time, I hope that the effort I put out there on the court is what people will remember me for at Nevada. Because I gave it my all."
Silver and Blue Sports chronicled Burton's career, starting from his California Player of the Year run as a rising senior at Centennial high school to the final game of his Wolf Pack career, through numerous stories, photos and videos. After earning WAC Freshman of the Year honors, Burton took the WAC Player of the Year award his sophomore year by leading Nevada to a 25-5 record and the WAC Regular Season title.
"We won more than people realize, in my opinion anyway," Burton said. "Especially early on. It is out there that we didn't win at Nevada, and that's not totally true. We didn't win enough the last two years when we moved to the Mountain West. Things just didn't shake out as we had hoped. But we had our chances.
"Honestly, my sophomore year we really should have been in the Tournament."
Without a doubt, a number of NBA scouting reports and articles are dinging Burton's overall Draft grade on the fact that Nevada finished 27-36 the past two years after moving up from the WAC to the MWC.
For example, this one…"One of the best mid-major players in the country over the last few seasons, Burton essentially toiled in anonymity, as Nevada struggled to achieve team success. Still, the explosive point guard's athleticism and scoring ability have earned the attention of NBA personnel, as those aspects of his game seemingly translate well to the next level. The Los Angeles-area native's physical tools also don't hurt his chances, but the fact that despite his talent, the Wolfpack were unable to make much of an impact will be factored in."
Or this one…"For all the athletic advantages at Burton's disposal, he struggled learning how to use them. Though he played for a 15-17 Nevada team…"
It isn't hard to find stuff like that all over. Look at NBADraft.net, which wrote, "Another red flag is the lack of success Nevada had in his time there ... Nevada had a losing record in three out of Burton's four seasons, including his junior and senior year." Or DraftExpress.com, which said midway through his senior year that, "Burton ranks among the top point guards in this draft class in a variety of categories, but is completely off the national media's radar and looks to be struggling to move the needle on his draft stock playing for a dysfunctional team that sports a mediocre 12-14 record in the Mountain West Conference."
Go to any Burton draft article and you'll see almost verbatim that Nevada's sub-.500 record the past two seasons is somehow or another being held over Burton's NBA Draft stock among the press.
Is this ridiculous prognosticating by various writers? Yes.
Was Paul George a marginal prospect because Fresno State went 28-39 during his two year WAC career? What about Paul Millsap? His Louisiana Tech teams went 29-30, and never above .500, during his final two seasons in the WAC. I'm sure other fans can think of other players who fit the bill.
If you think for a second that any of the 30 NBA General Manager's are seriously going to spend an ounce of time wondering why a college program didn't win more games with a star player, well, than you just aren't that clued in. Yes, teams want players with a winning attitude, but I think players like George, Millsap and Burton showed through their effort at the college level that they will do whatever it takes to win. George was an incredibly athletic swingman at Fresno State while Millsap was the nation's most dominant rebounder. Burton did it all. From multiple game winners to top SportsCenter dunks, 20 plus points per game, Burton was Nevada basketball the past four years.
No single moment defined his career more than a road game we saw during his senior year in Berkeley, California. This wasn't one of the dunks you'll see over and over again, like his patented, power-torque, mid-air swivel assault that is easily one of the most violent jams you'll ever see from a guard. He had two of those in the Cal game alone. This also wasn't a buzzer-beater, which he did numerous times in his Nevada career. Instead, it came with his team down double-digits late and the inside scoring of a much taller Cal team simply dominating the overall scoring. Burton pulled his Wolf Pack team together at the free-throw line with only a couple of minutes left and encouraged the younger players----despite the massive youth in the Nevada frontcourt----to keep fighting, to position themselves better and to never give up. The message was so strong in his mannerisms that you didn't even need to be in the huddle to know what he said. Nevada closed on a 10-4 run, with Burton slamming home another emphatic jam (seen in the video above), and though the Golden Bears won the game, you never would have known. Nevada clearly outhustled the Bears all night long, and their leader simply wouldn't let them hang their heads on the loss. It was a great moment by a fantastic leader.
"I know I could have gone to some other places," Burton said, recalling his decision to go to Nevada. "You mentioned St. John's, UCLA and Cincinnati. I visited most of those places and I know they pretty much go to the Tournament every year. I know all about that.
"...when I look back at my decision to go to Nevada, I don't regret it one bit."
"But when I look back at my decision to go to Nevada, I don't regret it one bit. The coaches at Nevada told me that they'd let me create----that I'd be able to play with the ball in my hands----and that's what happened. From day one till I left, they gave me that opportunity. I'm a better player for that, and I don't think I could say that if I went to one of those other schools. "
Nevada certainly helped Burton become the player who he is today. He left a lasting impression on the program. It was a win-win deal. More importantly, Burton now knows what its like to have some success, as well as coming up short of his goals. If he goes to an NBA team that struggles, he'll understand better than most young players that you don't stop working hard.
How many young men have learned that lesson at this point in their lives?
"I never really thought of it that way, my experience, but yes, I think being a senior entry does help me," Burton added, when asked about his maturity level. "I think when you read around like you said, it seems like everyone is holding my experience against me when it's exactly the opposite. I know what it's like to be on a team that's struggling, but I also learned that you work even harder at that point.
"Basketball is a grind, and I'm willing to grind. I bring energy, scoring, confidence and whatever else it takes, you know, I'll do it. I'll get it. Defense, spark, you name it, I'll do it."
"Even the scoring, I think that I'm a better scorer than people understand. I can definitely play over the rim, and I can attack. I've been given a gift."
The past month has seen Burton crisscross North America, and it has flat out left him exhausted.
"Yeah, I'm exhausted," Burton chuckled. "I am. I admit it. It has been a grind. I've done like 15 workouts in 15 different cities, and now I'm back here in L.A finally waiting for the draft. I am about to eat something now. I'm sore and I'm just ready, you know, for this to happen. No matter what happens, I'm ready. I think I'll be sleeping a bit tomorrow, and then I'll be fine on Thursday."
Each year, prospects like Burton go through the rigors of multiple draft workouts so that teams get a better idea of what they bring to the table. Burton's last workout was in Sacramento. He also added that a few of the workouts definitely stood out.
"It is kind of a blur now that I think about them, but the last one in Sacramento was great," Burton noted. "That was a real good workout. I liked the vibe there. It was a great atmosphere.
"My workouts in Phoenix and Dallas stood out too, especially the Phoenix one. I've never had a workout like that. I mean, the moment we started it was go-go-go, fast as you can. That's the tempo they have in place, and I think they want you to either show you can do that or you can't right.
"I thought I handled it pretty well, but that was impressive to me. It showed me that if you are going to play in that system you better get in amazing shape. Absolutely. But every workout was really good for me. Every place. It was something that I think I needed to go out and do."
Most NBA Draft sites have Burton listed in the 2nd round on Thursday night. Considering that Philadelphia has 5 second-round selections, Milwaukee 3 second-round selections and Minnesota another 3 second-round selections, that's one-third of the second-round picks.
"Yes, I'm aware of that," Burton said. "I know those are all potential destinations. I'm fine with anything. There's always trades and everything each year too, so you just never know where you'll end up. I think that's why it was good to do the workouts.
"It gave me a chance to see a lot of different places."
Growing up, Burton was unsurprisingly a Laker fan. He said he's never actually played a game at Staples Arena, and that if it happens it'll certainly be something unforgettable. He also noted that he was impressed with Bryce Cotton, a fellow senior entry in this NBA Draft who is from Tucson, Arizona. He played four years at Providence College.
"Tough player. Tough guy to guard," Burton added. "We have similar size, and all that. But he can score and he can just play the game."
While we know that Burton is going to be nervous, yet accepting on Draft night no matter where he's selected, perhaps nobody in his life will be more anxious than his father. Derrick Burton is one of the greatest Dad's we've ever come across in Nevada athletic history, and we've certainly met a lot of them over the years. It would be difficult to meet a man more humble or kind as Mr. Burton.
"He's great. I mean, he's the best," Burton said about his pops. "It'll be great to share it with him."
From the entire Wolf Pack sports community, SilverandBlueSports.com would like to wish Burton all the best on Thursday night.