Women’s Basketball: With Veronica Burton gone, other players step up


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Veronica Burton was drafted by the Dallas Wings last year.

Nicole Markus, Social Media Editor

As the three-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Northwestern women’s basketball’s Veronica Burton was a force with which to be reckoned. 

But Burton has left to play professionally with the Dallas Wings. This season, the remaining Wildcat players step up to face the impact of her absence on and off the court.

“(Veronica’s) legacy is in her unselfishness,” coach Joe McKeown said. “Our players just have incredible respect for her, so… you don’t replace (players like Burton). But what it does, it creates opportunity for other players.”

NU has a young roster, featuring five sophomores and three freshmen. Along with the veterans, these underclassmen will have the opportunity to step up in Burton’s absence. 

One such player is senior guard Kaylah Rainey. Averaging 7.3 minutes per game in 2021-22, Rainey will likely have the ball and the opportunity to score more this season.

“Rainey has done a really good job of being a steady point guard,” graduate forward Sydney Wood said. “When you’re coming into a position behind a great player like Veronica, it’s like not trying to be like them, but (instead) doing what you can and playing to your strengths. I think she’s going to be in a position to help the team a lot this year.” 

Sophomore guard Jillian Brown is another key player for 2022-23. Brown averaged eight points per game last season, and she said she plans to be more vocal on the court and step into the role of having the ball and scoring more.

Brown remembers Burton’s strong leadership, including her “constant” talking and ability to hold teammates accountable. 

“She works hard, and that definitely sets a standard for the younger players to follow,” Brown said. 

Graduate forward Courtney Shaw and Wood, who both played with Burton, came back for a fifth season. In Burton’s absence, Shaw and Wood will step up as the program’s most veteran leaders. 

Shaw said her decision to return felt right given the current team dynamic. She said the team has lost key players every year, including Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah (Communication ‘19) and Lindsey Pulliam (Communication ‘21), and they’ve had to work to work around these losses. 

“Every year somebody has to step up, and every year we’ve been able to do that,” Shaw said. “We have a different team without her, definitely. But I think me and (Wood) have taken it on our own… to take a larger leadership role.”

Wood suffered a season-ending injury last year, which contributed to her decision to return for a fifth season. She said part of her goals as a graduate student include being vocal and positive towards the underclassmen.

“(Wood) has a great basketball IQ and she helps out a lot of our players with that,” Shaw said. “I’m excited for her to show everyone what we were missing a little last year, and I think she has a lot to bring offensively and defensively.”

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Twitter: @nicolejmarkus

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