AMES — Iowa State big man Jameel McKay tapped his memory, then painted a poster-worthy image that starred teammate and longtime neighborhood friend Deonte Burton.
The noteworthy scene: A fast break in AAU ball during a Las Vegas tournament.
The rim-rattling play: A Burton dunk (of course).
“(He) was, like, in the eighth grade and he played up in Vegas and he dunked on Jeremy Richmond, who was a McDonald’s All-American,” said McKay, who like Burton is a Milwaukee native and Marquette transfer. “And after the game, Jeremy Richmond said, ‘When you get older, you’re going to be a bad boy.’ I remember that. He dunked on him bad.”
Burton’s good kind of “bad” status is real.
Just two game into his Cyclone career, the sturdily-built 6-4 forward’s turning heads with his above the rim talents, long-range accuracy and defensive intensity.
Burton scored 12 points in 16 minutes in No. 11 ISU’s signature road win a week ago at 22nd-ranked Cincinnati and continues to build stamina as he reacquaints himself with game speed after sitting out a season.
“Never had really seen him play until I got here and I think he’s been terrific,” said Cyclones coach Steve Prohm, whose team (10-1) faces Coppin State (2-12) in Wednesday’s non-con-closing 7 p.m. game at Hilton Coliseum. “I think his practice habits have gotten a lot better over the last month, now that he knew he was getting ready to play. I thought Cincinnati he gave great effort, made big plays, put pressure on the basket — and that’s the biggest thing offensively, just continuing to put pressure on the basket, because he’s a guy, physically, that can get to the free throw line for us.”
Burton’s potential role increased dramatically when senior guard Naz Mitrou-Long shut down his season to allow his surgically-repaired hips more time to heal.
He’s the seventh and possible final piece in a rotation puzzle that will solidify as conference play swings into view Saturday at No. 3 Oklahoma.
And he’s just getting started — without any of his short-term success going to his head.
“Thing I’m most pleased with …” said Burton, who added he’s his own worst critic. “That’s a tough question.”
The eventual answer also featured that “T” word.
“Just being tough,” Burton said. “Just trying to be the toughest player out there. That’s the thing that I’m most pleased with.”
Now, he steps forward on a team with legitimate Final Four aspirations. Looking back — even at that thunderous dunk McKay recalled — would merely cloud his vision.
“I actually don’t remember (it),” Burton said.
Because he’s dunked on so many people?
“Yeah,” he said. “And I’ve been dunked on so many times. I just forget about them.”