It’s that time of year again. Women’s basketball is set to begin its season in just over a week. To kick off our 2020-2021 coverage of the defending Big Ten champs, we will preview each player on Northwestern’s roster. Next up is junior guard Veronica Burton.
Who she is
Junior; Guard; 5-foot-9; Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year; Newton, MA
32 minutes per game; 11.6 points per game; 4.9 rebounds per game; 5.1 assists per game; 3.3 steals per game; 0.6 blocks per game; .437 FG%; .327 3FG%; .793 FT%
Not only was Burton the anchor of Northwestern’s stifling defense last season, she was one of the best defenders in conference. The Backcourt Burglar was first in the B1G in steals (100) for the second year in a row and racked up 17 blocks. Though not as well-known for her offense, Burton proved to be an assist machine leading the team with 152, 50 percent more than Sydney Wood, who in second place had 97. Burton’s defensive prowess also overshadowed the fact that she was second only to Lindsey Pulliam in scoring. She improved from the field as the season went along, averaging more than 16 points over the final nine games of the season. Not bad for the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
Burton is the ultimate disrupter on defense—it is hard to avoid her unless you know where she is at all times. At any second, she could appear, and next thing you know the ball is in her hands before you can run a play. NU’s Blizzard defense, keyed by Burton and Sydney Wood, held opponents to 57.1 points per game, just one point more than top-ranked South Carolina. Also the queen of active hands, Burton’s 3.3 steals per game put her at ninth in the nation last season. Her ability to anticipate opponents’ ball movement is unmatched. That paired with her speed on the court makes her a threat few can afford to overlook.
The junior’s weaknesses are only relative to her defensive abilities. She struggled offensively through the first eight games of 2019-20, averaging only six points per game and shooting 24.5 percent from the field. Her 5.1 assists and 11.6 points per game (still quite solid) overshadow her pedestrian 32.7 three-point percentage. She showed the ability to consistently connect from deep during that final eight-game stretch when she made 60 percent of her threes, but her offensive usage rate will be tested with no Abbie Wolf or Abi Scheid this year.
Head Coach Joe McKeown last year called Veronica Burton the most underrated player in the Big Ten and possibly one of the most underrated in the country. It’s safe to say that after her monster sophomore season, her name appears at the top of every opponents’ scouting report.
Burton has only boosted her stat lines over the last two seasons, improving in every category aside from three-point shooting and an already impressive free throw percentage. One can hope that with the loss of high-scoring seniors Abi Scheid and Abbie Wolf, Burton will step up once again beside Lindsey Pulliam to maintain success on the offensive side of the ball. And, if she keeps up her knack for offensive distribution, she could lift pressure off herself and Pulliam by setting up her teammates in good positions to score as well.