Burton’s strengths shining for No. 25 Iowa St.
AMES — There are times when senior Deonte Burton can be the most spectacular and maddening player on the floor for No. 25 Iowa State — often in the same sequence.
Harnessing Burton’s strengths and minimizing his weaknesses will be a big challenge for both Burton and coach Steve Prohm this season.
Burton has been occasionally spectacular for Iowa State. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder is averaging 14.1 points, a team-high 7.6 rebounds and is shooting 47.4 percent from 3-point range.
If Burton can continue to overcome the little mistakes that hold him back, like forced shots and the nearly two turnovers per game so far in 2016-17, the Cyclones can be a serious threat in the Big 12. Iowa State travels to face Iowa (4-5) tonight.
“Some of those shots that he shoots, you’re like ‘Oh man,'” Prohm said. “But those are lessening. Now the biggest thing we’ve got to get him to do is to make that extra pass, and I think he’s seeing that. But he’s just an offensive talent.”
Last season, Burton was a role player for a team with plenty of scoring options.
This year, the Cyclones are counting on him.
Burton was a top-50 recruit coming out of Vincent High in Milwaukee, and he earned Big East All-Rookie honors for Marquette as a freshman. But after losing his mother to breast cancer just before the start of his sophomore season, Burton opted for a change and left Marquette after just eight games.
Like so many transfers before him, Burton found a home with the Cyclones. He became eligible last December and was immediately inserted into a rotation that had just lost starting guard Naz Mitrou-Long to injuries.
Burton averaged a career-high 9.7 points and 3.9 rebounds. But with frontcourt stars like Georges Niang and Abdel Nader leading the way and a first-year coach in Prohm that he barely knew, Burton’s focus wasn’t always where it needed to be.
“He’ll tell you. Last year…he wasn’t hard, necessarily, to coach. But he wasn’t easy to coach, either,” Prohm said. “I really just talked to him about my expectations, what I wanted him to do to help him … the way you go about things, the way you prepare, the way you work, the way you handle yourself. He’s done all that.”
Prohm also said at media day in October that he wanted Burton to get a double-double “every game.” Burton is talented enough to come close.
Burton has scored at least 20 points three times this season, including a 29-point performance in a 73-71 loss to No. 8 Gonzaga.
Burton has shown a knack for getting hot and scoring points in bunches — like when scored the first 13 points in Monday’s win over Nebraska-Omaha — but he’s learning not to do that without disrupting Iowa State’s game plan.
“If I start hitting some shots, then I start taking bad shots. So I just try to keep with the flow of the game,” Burton said.
That 91-47 win over Omaha also featured a sequence that encapsulated Burton’s game.
Burton grabbed a tough defensive rebound, but then threw a careless left-handed outlet pass the Mavs stole. Burton stayed under the hoop, blocking the ensuing layup try and allowing the Cyclones to get back up the floor in transition.
If Iowa State can get those types of plays from Burton — minus the miscue — it will be much closer to reaching its full potential.
“I think Deonte is playing a lot smarter right now. And we need him to,” Prohm said.