Usually, being known as a burglar isn’t a good thing. For Veronica Burton, it is.
Anyone who’s followed Northwestern Women’s Basketball is no stranger to the various nicknames given to Burton this season: Burton the Burglar, the Backcourt Bandit and the like. Entering Monday, she has 81 steals which not only leads the Big Ten but tops the conference by a margin of 21.
Although defense in basketball can often be overlooked, it’s always been Burton’s specialty even before she began her college basketball career in Evanston last season.
“It’s definitely just something I’ve been pretty good at since a young age,” Burton said. “I think my anticipation is something that just came to me. I don’t really know.”
Her incredible instincts on the floor are hard to look past. In an era where statistics are king, there’s no way to directly quantify intellect. But with Burton, perhaps her steal numbers shed light on some of her natural gifts as a basketball player.
Her head coach Joe McKeown initially joked saying Burton’s ability to steal the ball came from his coaching. But, someone with as much coaching experience as McKeown knows she has a special talent.
“She’s so smart. She just anticipates really well,” McKeown said. “It’s something she brought with her when she got here. I think that’s just kudos to her.”
Burton said when she was younger, she would do drills with tennis balls to improve her hand-eye coordination. Now, she said it’s something she continues to try to improve at, albeit with a little help from technology.
“Something I definitely do a lot, especially as a point guard, is watch a lot of film,” the sophomore said. “Our scouting reports are pretty helpful, so just seeing what each player likes to do and where they like to go and stuff like that is something I pick up on too.”
Between the work of her and fellow sophomore Sydney Wood, the ‘Cats blizzard defense has been a challenge for opponents to figure out.
“She [Burton] enjoys the defensive end of the floor. She takes pride in it,” McKeown said. Sydney does [too]. When they can put that kind of pressure on the perimeter, it really helps us.”
In addition to steals, Burton is second in the Big Ten (behind Wood) in assist to turnover ratio, further accentuating how although she might not be the team’s leading scorer, she still finds a way to make plays to help the team win. She said knowing what each of her teammates’ strengths are helps her just play her game.
“Scheid has been outstanding on the perimeter, and you can always count on Lindsey [Pulliam], and [Abbie] Wolf and those guys,” she said. “No one really cares who gets the credit. No one cares who makes the shot at the end of the day.”
Posting Up is a weekly column about Northwestern Women’s Basketball. Each Monday, Eric Rynston-Lobel writes about a unique aspect of the team that hopes to win the Big Ten for the first time since the 1989-90 season.