Deonte Burton: The Decision was published by UsportsHub on June 13, 2013 in a four-part series. The full article has been posted below since UsportsHub is no longer active.
The 21-year-old Nevada point guard saw two roads before him.
One road led to a senior season at the University of Nevada, Reno where he could be the first in his family to earn a college degree. This trail could also lead him to helping Nevada redeem itself in the Mountain West Conference after finishing last. Through the difficult season, the Wolf Pack fans did not waiver, and because of this Burton felt drawn to stick with them. Finally, a senior season gave him another shot at competing in what all college athletes strive for, an appearance in the NCAA tournament.
Yet, the other road would take him closer to achieving what he’s been dreaming of and working for since he picked up a ball at 9 years old. The hours and days spent on the court and in the weight room were done for the love of the game and more. It was also done in the hopes of one day competing in the most elite level of basketball, the NBA.
“It’s a career and a life decision,” said Deonte Burton. “It’s not just any decision. This is going to affect my life forever.”
The Night Before
It was the night before Burton would announce the decision that could greatly alter his life’s path. In his dark room he lay in bed and thought about the press conference that awaited him the next day.
Questions and concerns circled around and around in his head.
“What if I trip on the stage? How was I going to start it off? Am I going to mess up on saying things, certain words? Or am I not even going to say anything?”
The nerves began to build up inside him as he tossed and turned. He was unable to succumb to the desire to get a good night’s rest. The seconds, minutes and hours passed.
Staying or Leaving?
The 2012-2013 season had officially come to a close for the Nevada Wolf Pack after losing the play-in game to the University of Wyoming 85-81, where Burton finished with 27 points and six assists. Burton could no longer use his “focus on the season” as an excuse to shy away from the question that was on everybody’s mind.
Whether he was at the grocery store, bowling or even at restaurants, Burton would be approached by strangers who would ask him the million-dollar question: “Hey Deonte, are you staying or leaving?”
Without an introduction, a hello or how are you, these strangers wanted to know the answer that Burton did not yet know himself.
“Wherever I went the question was there,” Burton said. “It didn’t go away.”
He said that he heard the question at least once a day.
Burton first garnered attention from the NBA after his freshman year when he was declared the Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year (2010-2011). He averaged a whopping 17.3 points and 4.1 assists that year.
“I was absolutely shocked,” said Derek Burton, Burton’s father, of when he first heard that his son was on the NBA Draft site.
Derek Burton said that he first heard it from a coach at a Los Angeles summer tournament in 2011 that Burton was playing in. The coach said that Burton was predicted as late first round.
“I was just there to watch Deonte’s game and he came and told me,” Derek Burton said. “I went home and sure enough he was on there, NBA Draft net, and he stayed on there. He stayed on the first round up until this year.”
However, Burton’s change in stock didn’t keep the agents and general managers from keeping an eye on the six-foot-one guard.
“Strong, very athletic, aggressive scorer,” said an NBA scout. “Gets to the rim. Has the luxury of getting to take a lot of shots for Nevada. Uses his strong upper-body frame to his advantage, scoring wise.”
Burton gained even more attention from the ESPN in last season’s away game against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. An inbounds play where Malik Story, Nevada senior guard, passed it in to Burton for the dunk made it on ESPN’s top 10 plays for that day.
Burton was humbled by the talks of him having NBA talent.
“It feels like it’s fake just because I’ve dreamed about playing in the NBA my whole life,” Burton said. “Just talks of being in the NBA is very humbling to me. It’s an eye-opener.”
He went to different sources for advice on the decision he should make. He mainly discussed it with his parents, but he also talked to Derrion Burton, his brother, Rolland Pearsall, his cousin, Derrick Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Carter. Carter expressed that at Nevada he knew what he could do for Burton, but entering the NBA Draft would be venturing into the unknown.
Burton even went to his teammates for advice.
“I told him regardless of him staying or leaving, he would be making a good decision,” said Marqueze Coleman, Nevada freshman guard. “If he left, I felt like he would have been drafted and making money. And if he stayed, I know we would have a better year than last year, so that’s only going to help him for the Draft next year. So, I felt like he was in a win-win situation.”
Derek Burton explained that he thinks that if his son were to ask 100 people if he should stay or leave, he wanted them all to say the same thing. He went to various people because he wanted to be certain that he was making the right choice.
Yet, even with all the NBA hype, Derek Burton said that his son would often express how good the people at Nevada were to him.
It was now time for Burton to decide if he would stay at Nevada or leave for the NBA Draft.
On March 15, midterms had officially come to an end, and it was time for spring break 2013 to begin. Burton finally had the time he needed to truly ponder his next step, and he would be surrounded by family during the process. Burton was Cali bound.
Back home in Compton he took in his parents’ thoughts on the decision. Loretta Burton, Burton’s mother, wanted her son to stay at Nevada.
“I’m the only one that’s went to college in my family, so that’s pretty big for our family,” Burton said.
However, Derek Burton wanted him to go into the NBA Draft.
“I always wanted him to go into the Draft,” Derek Burton said.
Derek Burton said his disagreement on the matter with his wife found him sleeping on the couch more than once. However, Derek Burton Jr., Burton’s oldest brother, believes that was just “reverse psychology,” and their father really did want Burton to stay at school.
Burton had to escape it all. When the clock struck midnight, it was time to venture to his getaway. Derrion Burton would take him.
“I went about three or four times to the beach, just listened to the waves crash against the sand, listened to the water and just thought about it,” Burton said.
He would sit alone on the soft sand and just think.
While he was back home he received a visit from Nevada head coach David Carter on March 18.
“I knew he was nervous because he took that trip down to L.A. for spring break,” Burton said.
The family knew he was coming, and he talked to Burton for about an hour that day.
“It was just me just showing some support,” Carter said.
Carter said he is not into pressuring and that the talk they had during the visit was more of a conversation. He had already discussed the decision with Burton prior to travelling to Los Angeles. However, because Carter has close ties to the family, he mostly talked to Derek Burton throughout the time that they were waiting for Burton to make his decision since the season ended.
Four days later, on March 22, Burton sent out a tweet on Twitter:
“I will announce if im staying or leaving in April around the 7th or the 10th. And man its a tuff one #wolfpack I will always bleed blue”
Finding a Silver Lining
At Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo High School, Burton and Harrison Hawkins, his teammate at the time, were key contributors to the varsity team as starting freshmen. Burton played at shooting guard while Hawkins ran the point.
The summer after his freshman year was when Carter saw Burton play for the first time in a tournament.
“I saw him in Los Angeles, and he was one of those kids that you always want to keep an eye on,” Carter said.
Burton and Hawkins spent their freshmen and sophomore years at Cabrillo. After these two years, Vadim Malikin, their coach, chose to leave Cabrillo for the head coaching position at Compton Centennial High School.
With the hope of better opportunities on Centennial’s team and the addition of their respected coach, Burton and Hawkins decided to make a strategic move and transfer to Centennial. The two found themselves in the starting line up once again, with Hawkins at point guard and Burton filling his role as shooting guard.
In the first two games Burton instantly dominated the hardwood floor finishing with over 20 points.
These games were the last that Burton and Hawkins would compete in for the rest of their junior season. On the morning of Centennial’s third game, Burton and Hawkins were told by the California Interscholastic Federation that they were ineligible to play because they were transfers.
“It was a rule by the CIF saying you can’t follow your head coach somewhere else, to another school, if you do you have to sit out a year,” Burton said.
Hawkins said that the two did not know that there was a possibility that they would be sitting out.
Burton had an aunt who lived in Compton who he sometimes stayed with, and the Burton family even moved to Compton. Yet, the CIF still ruled him ineligible for his junior year.
“It killed him,” Derek Burton said.
Burton said that it really affected him mentally.
“I didn’t want to go to class. I didn’t want to go to school period just because I wasn’t playing,” he said. “I had no motivation. I hate seeing games when I could be out there, especially if we’re losing.”
Junior year was the year that athletes set the stage for their future; the year that they get the most attention from college coaches. At first, Burton developed a slight fear that he wouldn’t get looks from college scouts so late in the game.
“Me and Deonte would sit at the end of the bench,” said Hawkins who is now a point guard at Navarro College. “We were pretty negative, but we still managed to try and encourage our teammates.”
Game in and game out the duo sat side by side with the only movement coming from their eyeballs following their teammates and the opponents move from one side of the court to the other. The seconds on the scoreboard slowly ticked down.
“The time is definitely longer,” Hawkins said. “That season felt like it was forever.”
As the season progressed Burton and Hawkins realized that negativity was getting them nowhere. The fans and Malikin helped to reassure them that everything would be all right. The support, along with the change in thinking, gave the two guards the push they needed to pull themselves out of their slump.
“We stopped being selfish, and we stopped thinking about ourselves,” Burton said.
The time off gave them time to work on their game and help coach their teammates. They acted like they were the other team at practices and pushed their team to be better.
Malikin said that sitting out made Burton a better leader.
“He did a great job leading that team while he wasn’t playing,” Malikin said.
Burton was present on his team’s bench at every game and was a force at every practice. The inability to perform built a gnawing hunger within him. That hunger only grew to starvation when he saw his rankings slip. He had something to prove.
“I was just so poorly ranked so I wanted to prove to everyone that I belong in that upper-class of rankings too,” he said. “I was pretty mad, but I used it as motivation to succeed and to try to work on my game and get better.”
The Results Are In
Derek Burton spent a month and a half gathering as much information as he could on where his son stood in the Draft. Agents were constantly contacting him and telling him anything they could so they could represent Burton.
Derek Burton knew he had to be weary to not fall for false promises. He went mostly to Carter for information because he was the one who could submit the NBA Advisory Form and had contacts in the NBA.
In return the head coach would go to the elder Burton to see if he knew what choice the point guard was leaning toward.
In early April, a week before Burton announced his decision, the NBA Advisory Form came back. The feedback was based on where Burton stood in April and was subject to change.
“As of that day, when the advisory came back, a majority of the guys were saying he’ll probably be a second round pick,” Carter said.
Derek Burton said that of the 21 general managers, 16 said they would draft him.
“People were telling me, ‘That means he’s going to get drafted,’” Derek Burton said.
Burton said he knew his decision when he was back home and that he told his family.
“I told them not to go posting it anywhere though,” Burton said. “Don’t go posting it on Twitter or anything like that. I have to announce the decision.”
Yet, he was even more sure of his choice when he returned to school after spring break and met with Carter in his office to review the feedback from the NBA Advisory Form. He had three to five days to prepare his speech. Before he picked up a pen and started writing, he thought about exactly what he was going to say.
He knew the second question to if he was staying or leaving would be “the why?”
“You have to answer the question why to the media,” Burton said.
On April 6, two days before the press conference, Burton wrote down on notecards what he was going to say to the eager faces that awaited him. Once he had all his reasons and explanations written down, he began to rehearse the speech over and over again.
“I had that written down by April 6, two days before,” Burton said. “So, I had it written down. I had it memorized. I had it already down completed. I was just reviewing it.”
He mostly practiced his speech with Michael Perez, Nevada junior guard and Burton’s roommate. Yet, no matter whom he rehearsed with, he knew it would not be the same once he stepped on stage.
“You got the cameras clicking, and the recordings up, and people watching, and the newspaper is there, the Nevada Sagebrush,” Burton said. “You just try not to mess up.”
The weekend before Burton announced his decision, he had informed Carter and Wolf Pack Media Services that he was ready to make it known to the public. Jack Kuestermeyer, assistant director of media services for men’s basketball, typed up the email that would be sent to his “Local Pack Media” list.
The email read:
“University of Nevada head men’s basketball coach David Carter will hold a press conference on Monday in the Lawlor Events Center media room at 3 p.m. This is a media only event.”
Kuestermeyer clicked send.
There was no mention of Burton in the email.
“It was kind of a cryptic little email,” said Eric Uribe, sports editor of The Nevada Sagebrush.
It was April 8, the day of the press conference. Burton awoke early even after he failed to get a full night of sleep. He made himself a salad for breakfast just like he did every other morning. Tomatoes and strawberries surrounded the dark green lettuce that was topped in raspberry vinaigrette dressing.
Burton called Perez out of his room. Burton performed his speech on Perez like he had been doing for the past two days.
“I just wanted to be there for him and just listen to him,” Perez said. “I mean it’s very stressful. It’s a life decision. So I just wanted to listen to what he had to say and what he’d been hearing, how he was feeling about it and give my feedback.”
In an attempt to ease Burton’s mind, the two headed over to the gym to work out and get some shots up.
After the workout, Burton showered in the locker room and changed into his conference attire that he had hanging on his locker. In his hand he firmly gripped his notecards that he wrote his speech on two days prior. By the time he was ready, the clock had struck 3 p.m. It was time.
Burton was ineligible his junior season at Compton Centennial and he didn’t see much playing time that summer either because he changed club teams. The beast within him was finally unleashed with the start of his senior season.
“We had a chip on our shoulders,” Burton said of him and Hawkins. “We’re going to show every team, every scout, that we belong. And that’s what we did.”
Hawkins explained that there were some butterflies going into the first few games for the two guards, but it didn’t last long. Even with the nerves, they were still able to dominate.
“Deonte scored 38 in our second game back and 44 our third game back,” Hawkins said. “We combined for 60 points in both games.”
The real turning point for Burton came in December 2009 of his senior season after his performance in the Trevor Ariza Westchester Tip-Off Classic.
“I was there actually recruiting another kid and had been talking to him and his dad for quite some time,” said Keith Brown, Nevada assistant coach.
Brown had flown into Southern California to watch the tournament after the Wolf Pack had a game in North Carolina. He explained that he was already aware of Burton prior to the tournament. However, Brown’s attention transitioned completely toward Burton after seeing him play against the guard he was originally recruiting.
Brown was captivated by Burton’s natural athleticism, ability to play different positions and by his tenaciousness toward leading his team.
“He scored a lot of points that game, but he pretty much put his team on his back the two to three games I saw him play in that tournament,” Brown said.
He became determined to encourage Carter to go see Burton play as soon as possible.
Some of the other schools that Burton also snagged attention from were the University of Cincinnati, Marquette University, St. John’s University and the University of California, Los Angeles.
“All these schools were like, ‘Where was this kid at?’” Derek Burton said. “Because they hadn’t seen him in his junior year because he had dropped off the face of the map because he didn’t play.”
Burton and his father both admitted that before the recruitment process began, their first love was UCLA.
“It’s UCLA,” Derek Burton said. “You’re an L.A. kid. Your cousin goes there. Everybody was telling him that out of high school. It’s a no brainer. You got to go there.”
However, as time went on, it became increasingly clear that Nevada wanted him more. The Silver and Blue was in dire need of a point guard with the loss of Armon Johnson to the NBA Draft, and the coaches were confident that Burton could possibly fill that role even if he hadn’t ever played point guard before.
Brown told Carter that although he didn’t play point for Compton Centennial, there were times where the ball was in his hands, and he could pass the ball and make good decisions.
“You can see he can run the point guard position,” Brown said. “They (Compton Centennial) needed him to score more so they played him all over the place.”
Carter met Burton at Centennial’s away game against El Segundo, and he was present at other games as well. Yet, in the game against El Segundo, Burton recalled that he didn’t miss.
In the spring of his senior year he made his first visit to the UNR campus. The sun was out, and it was surprisingly hot that day.
“It just felt like home to me,” Burton said. “It felt like California, that was before I knew it snowed and everything of course. Coach Carter told me, but I didn’t know it was like that. But I never really doubted this place.”
After Burton’s trip to Cincinnati, he was positive that Nevada was where he was meant to be. The campus felt like home, he liked the coaches, and he had the opportunity to earn the starting point guard position.
“’He turned down UCLA, Cincinnati, to go to Nevada?’” Derek Burton said. “That was the big buzz in L.A. for a while until he went and did his thing.”
In April 2010, Burton signed at Nevada.
“If he didn’t come here, I don’t know what we would have done,” Carter said.
Little did Burton know that just three years after he signed would he feel like he was being recruited all over again with his decision between the Pack and the NBA Draft.
That wasn’t the only record replaying for Burton. He saw other parallels between his high school and college basketball careers.
He started his freshman year at Nevada and did really well earning the WAC Freshman of the Year. However, the team as a whole did mediocre. He said the same situation happened to him as a high school freshman.
As a sophomore in college his individual performance improved, and ESPN noticed it.
Miles Simon, ESPN college basketball analyst and former University of Arizona shooting guard who led the team to a 1997 national championship, said Burton was the best point guard he’s seen on the west coast. This was after Nevada had an overtime win against the University of Washington in Burton’s sophomore season. He finished with 31 points, which included a game-tying three-pointer.
Burton even took the WAC Player of the Year honor in his second year. The team as a whole made strides as well and won the WAC championship. Although he did not win a championship at Cabrillo when he was a sophomore, he and the team had enhanced.
“He had a lot of hype his freshman and sophomore year, but with the year he didn’t play, people didn’t know too much about him,” Brown said of Burton’s high school career.
In his junior year of high school, the transition was to a new school where he missed a season on the court. The switch from the WAC to the MWC as a college junior was another transition that did not go smoothly with Nevada finishing 12-19, 3-14 MWC.
Even though Burton averaged 16.3 points per game and is ranked sixth in the Mountain West, the Pack’s performance and season record caused his stock in the NBA Draft to lower from first round to a second round pick or possibly undrafted.
“This year here at Nevada, it wasn’t the greatest, so, I mean might as well count that as I didn’t play either,” Burton said. “It’s just like high school. It’s like the same cycle playing itself all over again. To me I feel like it’s the same situation I was in high school.”
Even after his missed season he still had a senior year left to go, and if Burton chose to stay at Nevada he would yet again have a senior year remaining to redeem himself and the Wolf Pack.
“All my life it’s been like this,” Burton said. “It’s been the same thing over and over again — like a tape playing over and over again.”
The chip was back on Burton’s shoulders. He had two roads before him. He could go down the one that would give him another year to prove himself again. Or his frustration with the way the season ended could lead him to take the road to the NBA Draft, which held an even more unclear destination.
The Internal Buildup
From the night before to the day of the press conference the nerves inside Burton had been manifesting in different ways. Upon entering the press conference room, it was as if everything was intensified.
His heart was pounding, and he was sweating. His stomach made him feel like he was on a rollercoaster by the way it kept dropping.
Before walking up the platform to take his seat, he had to give himself some mental coaching.
“Whatever you do, don’t trip. Don’t spill your water. Don’t do any of that. Just go up there and be confident.”
Burton would not be alone on the stage. Carter would be sitting right next to him.
“I’m going to take the stage and sit down right away, and he’s just going to have to move over,” Burton said recalling the moment he walked on stage.
Carter’s heart was pounding as he too was feeling the nerves because he still did not know Burton’s decision. While Burton’s stomach kept dropping, Carter could feel his stomach turning. He wondered, “What is Burton going to say?”
He also had to be prepared for what he was going to say depending on Burton’s answer.
“I went into it thinking, ‘If he says this, what am I going to say? If he says that, what am I going to say?’” Carter said.
Burton was focused on taking the seat closest to him for fear that if he had to move any farther he might fall. He went in front of the man accompanying him on stage.
“I guess he was expecting me to scoot down, like, to the edge,” Burton said. “But I didn’t want to because I already had it envisioned, like, I’m going to sit right there.”
Carter was then forced to walk to the other side of the stage to take the seat next to Burton.
“You got your favorite side?” Carter said as he was taking his seat.
“Yup,” Burton said before he sat down.
Burton’s path in life starkly contrasted from Derek Burton Jr., 33, and Derrion Burton, 28, his two older brothers that are several years older than him.
Upon entering their high school years, the two eldest brothers fell into what Burton called, “the art of peer pressure.”
Burton Jr., the oldest brother, found himself hanging with the “wrong crowd” and getting involved in gang activity in his sophomore year of high school.
“The problem was hanging with the wrong crowd,” Burton Jr. said. “So I got caught up hanging around with the wrong crowd. And it ended up costing me six years of my life.”
Derrion Burton, the middle brother, got caught up in drugs.
“I credit them though because they showed me the path not to take,” Burton said. “And they still teach me till today.”
His brothers were the ones who taught him how to play basketball as well. This was the sport that would become Burton’s release in the future to escape the world of drugs and gangs.
Loretta Burton, their mother, would be at every game, and she would always have her youngest son right by her side.
“He would sit there and watch us,” Burton Jr. said. “But I didn’t know he was soaking it up. It definitely turned out the best for him.”
After Burton Jr. came back from prison the first time, his parents told him how good of a basketball player his youngest brother was. Burton Jr. gave him the nickname, “Onte.”
“I don’t know where Onte got that game from,” Burton Jr. said. “He says it was us, but I don’t know. I didn’t even have game like Onte back then.”
The surprised Burton Jr., who was in his mid-20s at the time, could recall competing against his brother one-on-one for the first time when Burton was around 17 years old.
“Moms and my pops had a little bet that Onte could beat me,” Burton Jr. said. “And I told them that he couldn’t, and we ended up playing. But he beat me every time I played him, except one time. It took everything I had to beat Onte in just that one game.”
Burton Jr. was shocked because he could still remember the days when his little brother didn’t even know how to dribble and what side of the court was his.
It’s hard for Burton Jr. to fathom that his youngest brother looks up to them.
“Him looking up to us?” Burton Jr. said. “Man. That really touched me, but the honest to God truth, I know I do, I can’t speak for Derrion, but I look up to my little bro.”
Burton Jr.’s choices almost cost him his life at 18 years old in 1998 when he was at a party on Florence and Normandie in L.A. Streets notorious for the L.A. riots in 1992.
There was a group of people hanging in the front yard of the house. Burton Jr. was a part of that group.
“Y’all can come in the house if y’all want to,” said a girl who came out of the house. “We shouldn’t be hanging outside.”
The girl went back inside, and Burton Jr. and the rest of the group stayed outside. What transpired two minutes later would change Burton Jr.’s life forever.
“Somebody came by shooting,” Burton Jr. said.
An AK 47 shot Burton Jr. in the leg twice. It was a drive-by shooting. People were shooting from the car, but a couple of them got out of the car and shot individuals at the back of the house.
He knew he had to get out of there. It was life…or death. The only escape was a black gate that was 10 feet tall.
“The average person wouldn’t think about hopping that gate, but if you had to, you would,” Burton Jr. said.
At the top of that gate, sharp points would meet Burton Jr. Even after he was shot, he managed to get over the gate.
“My adrenaline was pumping so much, that actually helped me escape,” he said.
He was atop the gate. The next step was the jump down, but in the process his shirt got stuck on one of the points of the black gate. He was hanging from the gate and was then forced to tear his shirt off.
“When I fell down, that’s when my leg finally gave out,” Burton Jr. said.
That didn’t matter. He was outside of the gate. He hopped on his right leg to the gas station across the street. There he was able to get help and call the police.
He lost two and a half pints of blood. The doctors said if the bullet had hit the bone, he wouldn’t have a leg.
“I wouldn’t go to the hospital because I didn’t want to face it if they told me my son was dead,” Derek Burton said. “I just couldn’t. I called his mom, and she was hysterical. So when I told her, she lost it.”
That night, seven to eight people were wounded by gunshots, and a 16-year-old boy lost his life.
“They say the strong only survive, but at the same time the strong even die,” Burton Jr. said.
Burton Jr. is reminded of that day by the long scar that remains on his left leg, and he walks with a slight limp. The doctors told him he’d never be able to play basketball again, but he said he actually is able to play recreationally.
Burton Jr. reflects on that night with anger that he was even there, but he realizes that he’s blessed to be alive.
“He’s a good person,” Derek Burton said. “He just made the wrong choices in life. He never got into trouble for doing anything violent.”
Derek Burton said he feels like it’s partially his fault. As a first time dad he believes he wasn’t involved enough with Burton Jr.’s life.
Burton was seven years old when this happened. He doesn’t remember much from that time, but he knows that his brother almost lost his life because of his gang affiliation.
A Second Chance
Today, Burton hasn’t seen his oldest brother in three years. Burton Jr. sits in prison for the second time in his life, but this time it was for a crime he said he didn’t commit. He gave two under aged white boys, who were his neighbors, a ride to a house. The boys ended up robbing the home.
“So since I dropped them off they charged me with the crime, but I never got out the car, never went in nobody’s house,” Burton Jr. said.
Derek Burton explained that they thought his eldest son was the mastermind behind the crime.
In prison Burton Jr. dwells on seeing his family again and all the things he could have avoided in his life.
“I wish I could do it all over again, but I am actually doing it all over again,” Burton Jr. said. “I’m watching my little brother do it. And there’s no feeling like that. I feel like when he’s on the court, I’m on the court. Every time he’s out there, my heart beats much faster, and it’s like I’m out there with him. Every free throw. Every three pointer. I’m out there with him.”
Burton Jr. expressed nothing but pride for his little brother who realized what him and Derrion did was wrong and learned from it.
“I didn’t have to preach it to him because he’s seen what we did wrong, and he chose his own path and said, ‘Well, I’m not going to go down that road,’” Burton Jr. said.
Along with seeing his two sons, Burton Jr. also wants to see is his brother play in person at Nevada.
“I’m trying to see his college games, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen,” Burton Jr. said. “I see them on TV, but I really want to appear there in person. But he knows I’m there with him at heart.”
So for now, Burton Jr. waits.
Burton wanted to make his family proud. He stayed focused on basketball, which kept him away from gangs and drugs.
“My dad was so hurt that like, it was like, ‘you know what I’m done trying,’ and if Deonte does it, he does it,” Burton said. “But if he doesn’t then he doesn’t. So someone was looking for that leadership role from the boys to pick it up. And that’s where I came in. And as I grew up and matured and saw my brothers do what they did, I already knew what to do.”
The greatest obstacle that Burton has faced in his life thus far is just showing his brothers that they can turn their lives around.
The Road Not Taken
Burton was dressed in black slacks and matched the Nevada backdrop in his dark blue button-up dress shirt. He moved his chair out to take his seat. He sat down and scooted closer to the table. Burton cleared his throat while he fidgeted with his notecards and microphone a bit.
The nerves were still going.
His hair and beard looked nicely trimmed. His deep brown eyes scanned the room, and he licked his lips while Jack Kuestermeyer gave the opening words to the press conference. Burton saw 20 to 25 people before him. A majority of the audience was the media, but Perez and Coleman were there to show their support.
This whole process was nothing new to Carter or Nevada. Luke Babbitt, JaVale McGee, Ramon Sessions, Armon Johnson all left early for the NBA Draft.
Carter moved around in his seat, a bit unsure what to do with his arms at first. He eventually decided to settle for having them on the table around the microphone in front of him. He looked at Burton, then back at the audience. His thumb absentmindedly tapped against the small microphone stand. His eyes couldn’t seem to stay still as they moved back and forth.
Burton began to speak into the microphone, and he started off with a few sentences that consisted of thanks to everyone that came. He explained that he had to do what’s best for him, and this was the hardest decision of his life so far. But then, he said what everyone was waiting for.
“I decided to come back to school for my senior year and still attend the University of Nevada,” Burton said.
There was an instant relief in the room. Burton saw smiles and heads nodding in the crowd, along with the occasional flash from the various cameras.
With Burton’s decision to stay at school, he gave Nevada hope. He gave the Wolf Pack promise. He showed his dedication to the place that has been so loyal to him for the past three years.
Burton recalled how nervous he was that day, and he said it was unbelievable that he got through it.
“I had a great feeling he was going to stay,” Hawkins said. “Deonte is a loyal guy, and he likes challenges. That’s how he’s always been.”
Derek Burton said that he is proud of his son for choosing to stay at Nevada, and that really was the right decision.
Burton chose the road not taken for a point guard since the 2003-2004 season. The last senior point guard the Pack had was Todd Okeson. He also chose the road not taken by his two older brothers, and that has made all the difference.
“A lot of people know how to play basketball, but to go get your degree?” Burton Jr. said. “To go to college? I applaud him. I wish the best for bro, I really do. That’s my heart right there. My little brother.”