Veronica Burton left Newton South High as a two-year captain of the girls’ basketball team, a three-time Dual County League MVP, and a 1,200-point scorer, but she didn’t expect to see herself in this situation.
Yet grounded in faith, family, and sticking with her trademark work ethic, Burton is on the doorstep of joining the WNBA.
Less than six weeks after wrapping up a stellar career with the Northwestern University women’s basketball team, Burton will be in attendance at the league’s first in-person draft since 2019 on Monday, one of 12 prospects invited to the “orange carpet” at Spring Studios in New York City.
“It’s definitely a huge honor to be invited and experience it live,” said Burton, a 5-foot-9-inch point guard. “There’s a lot of excitement built up around it and I think that’s great for the league and the sport of women’s basketball.”
The Atlanta Dream have the top pick in the draft, which begins at 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN. Likely top picks for the league’s first in-person draft since 2019 include Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith, Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard, and Ole Miss’s Shakira Austin.
At Northwestern, Burton was a three-time Big Ten defensive player of the year and the 2021-22 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association defensive player of the year. She averaged 17.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.4 assists, and 4 steals en route to AP All-America Third Team honors, a first-time honor for a Northwestern player.
She’s hired an agent and spoken to representatives from approximately half of the WNBA teams. She will likely be the fourth Northwestern player selected in the WNBA draft. A Bleacher Report mock draft put Burton 12th overall as a choice of the Connecticut Sun. ESPN’s mock draft projects Burton to the Washington Mystics at 14th overall, the second pick of the second round.
“For her to be looked at as one of the top players in the draft says a lot,” said Northwestern coach Joe McKeown, who recently spoke with many WNBA coaches and executives about Burton at the Final Four and calls Burton the most underrated and best guard in college basketball. “She’s such a mature point guard. She doesn’t make any mistakes and doesn’t get rattled.”
ESPN women’s basketball analyst LaChina Robinson said Burton is “pro ready” on the defensive end.
“She’s a game-changer [defensively],” Robinson said. “WNBA coaches and GMs see her as a really solid backup point guard option.”
Burton knows how she can best impact her new team.
“I’m a big fan of doing things that I can control, so really being the hardest worker and being someone that you can consistently rely on is what I feel I’ll bring to the team that drafts me,” she said.
The Burton family is full of athletes. Veronica’s late grandfather, Ron, was the first pick of the New England Patriots. Her mother, Ginni, was an All-American swimmer at Northwestern. Her father, Steve (quarterback), and three uncles played football for the Wildcats. Burton’s three older siblings all played collegiately; Kendall and Kayla played basketball at Villanova and Lehigh, respectively, and Austin played football at UCLA and is now at Purdue.
JoAnn Burton has seen it all develop. She noticed her granddaughter’s unmatched inner drive at a young age, like when she won the MVP of an elementary school basketball league where she was the only girl playing.
“Veronica was always determined to be at the top,” JoAnn Burton said. “She’s always chosen her own walk and she’s walked it with determination.”
Burton’s high school and AAU programs talk about her often. Newton South coach Joe Rogers calls attention to Burton actively seeking out opportunities to get better.
Newton South’s starting point guard, junior Maddy Genser, looks up to Burton. At a game this year, Burton offered Genser some praise for her ball handling and speed.
“It was the best compliment I could’ve gotten,” Genser said. “A lot of us see her as a celebrity. When I saw her in the gym, I was at a loss for words.”
Burton’s AAU program, the Bay State Jaguars, cite her as a player to emulate. Burton wasn’t ranked in the ESPN HoopGurlz top 100 recruits for her high school class. She didn’t have loads of Power 5 offers. Nonetheless, she became one of the nation’s best players and is poised to be one of the select group of 144 WNBA players.
With all NCAA athletes granted an extra year of eligibility, Burton decided to move on with the support of Northwestern’s coaching staff to embark on her professional career. She honored her college commitment. Now, it’s on to the WNBA.
“I really am just ready for whatever happens,” Burton said. “Whenever my name is called, I’ll be excited for that.”
WNBA Draft at a glance
When: Monday, 7 p.m.
Format: Three rounds, 12 picks in each round.
Top 5 picks: 1. Atlanta Dream; 2. Indiana Fever; 3. Washington Mystics; 4. Fever; 5. New York Liberty.