Dallas Wings head coach Vickie Johnson knew she wanted to focus on defense with the seventh overall pick of Monday night’s WNBA draft. She got exactly what she was looking for in former Northwestern point guard Veronica Burton.
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Burton excelled on the defensive end of the floor in her four seasons in Evanston, Illinois, winning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year three times and leading the nation with 4.03 steals per game last season.
“[Johnson] had talked about just kind of wanting another defender that can really stop ballhandlers, keep people out of the paint,” Burton said Monday night of her pre-draft conversations with the Wings. “If that’s what she needs, that’s what I’m going to give her. I’m excited to just fill that role and whatever they ask me to do, I’m gonna try and do it.”
Ready for takeoff. pic.twitter.com/HW2ohOiwAl
— Dallas Wings (@DallasWings) April 12, 2022
The Newton, Massachusetts, native — who also led NU last season in points (17.8) and assists (6.4) — comes from an incredibly accomplished athletic family. Burton’s grandfather, three uncles, mom and dad all played sports at Northwestern. All three of her siblings played Division I sports as well.
Burton’s Massachusetts roots and deep ties to the Big Ten even led to a congratulatory phone call from none other than Tom Brady, the former Michigan and New England Patriots quarterback.
@TomBrady 🐐 ☎️ pic.twitter.com/saYSjcwcje
— Kayla Burton (@Kay_Breezy22) April 12, 2022
In addition to the individual accolades Burton picked up, she helped lead the Wildcats to the winningest season in program history in 2019-20. Northwestern finished 26-4 and captured a share of the Big Ten regular-season title for the first time since 1989-90.
Burton’s faith was front and center when she announced in a social media post she was entering this year’s draft. The post started and ended with her pointing to God.
“I want to first thank My God, My Creator, My Savior and Father. I promise I am nothing without the One Above. … God works in tremendous ways and I cannot wait to see what’s ahead.”
This place has meant the world to me. Forever thankful💜 pic.twitter.com/Cu31lD6Sca
— Veronica Burton (@Veronicaab22) March 25, 2022
Early in her college career, Burton found herself lacking confidence and was frustrated that she didn’t feel like she was playing to her potential. In November, she wrote a first-person piece for UNCUT discussing the struggles she faced and the role her family played in introducing her to God at a young age.
“Faith has always been a crucial part of my life,” Burton wrote. “I grew up in a family that put a huge emphasis on having and maintaining a relationship with God. So, I was already familiar with my walk in faith, and knew that I could always turn to God when in times of need. Yet I had strayed away from Him and tried to handle basketball, school and everything else all on my own.”
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A conversation with her dad helped encourage Burton to place a new emphasis on making God the priority and playing basketball to glorify Him.
“When I went to college and was more on my own, my faith has grown tremendously,” she told His Huddle last year. “I have seen the way my life has changed when God is at the forefront of it, and so I continue to try to strengthen my faith everyday as best I can.”
In the UNCUT piece, Burton said she has gotten into a routine of reading Philippians 4:5-7 before bed, before practice and before games. The passage has helped keep her focus in the right places and serves as a reminder to surrender everything to God.
“It talks about [how] in everything that I do, instead of worrying, pray to God,” Burton told Inside NU last month. “Sometimes I get overwhelmed with all the things that I’m trying to do. … It’s easy to get caught up in the accolades, the noise. But giving those things to God has been a major key for me.”
The Wings open the 2022 season at home against the Atlanta Dream on May 7.
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