Mike Brey, Notre Dame catch a rising star in point guard Markus Burton
MISHAWAKA, Ind. — Markus Burton’s a blur with a basketball, but off the court, he’s outdone even that level of quickness with his latest move.
Officially offered a scholarship to play basketball at Notre Dame by coach Mike Brey on Tuesday, the point guard from nearby Penn High School announced Friday afternoon that he has accepted.
“Yeah, I was waiting patiently,” Burton said with a smile of what finally became his first invitation from any Power 5 program.
The 6-foot Burton is not a part of the Rivals 150 prospect rankings — at least not yet — but his stock has largely soared during a summer in which he has starred for Penn as well as for a pair of elite club programs in the Indy Heat and Chicago-based Mac Irvin Fire.
Burton says he felt like the Irish became a realistic option for him a couple weeks ago, but an offer wasn’t extended until a visit to the ND campus this week, per his Twitter account.
“I knew he liked me,” Burton said of Brey. “When I went to visit, they talked about how they wanted me to play. Coach Brey loved me a lot, and I loved coach Brey, too, so there was kind of that bond.”
Burton’s relatively quick commitment came after he not long ago anticipated a drawn-out recruiting process involving several schools.
“When I had lunch with coach Brey and we talked,” Burton said, “I felt like we needed to get it done.”
While Burton, to go with his fearless and breathtaking drives, also has demonstrated an effective shooting touch from distance and in the mid-range for Penn, he didn’t hesitate when asked what position he envisions for himself collegiately.
“I see myself as being a true point guard,” he said.
Burton becomes the first commit in the Irish class of 2023. There are likely to be several more, given that ND is slated for heavy turnover following this upcoming season.
He also continues a recent trend of Brey frequently, and fruitfully, mining his own backyard after that area was left untapped for many years.
Burton’s in line to become at least the fifth St. Joseph County product to join Brey’s program since 2013, when Demetrius Jackson from Mishawaka Marian and Austin Torres from Penn each arrived.
Jackson, who had a final Rivals ranking of No. 38 nationally, went on to be an Irish MVP and an All-Atlantic Coast Conference second-team selection before leaving after his junior season for the NBA draft. The unranked Torres became a team captain.
More recently, Blake Wesley from South Bend Riley blasted onto the scene last winter. Carrying a Rivals ranking of just No. 104, Wesley played himself into a major role as a freshman, then declared for the NBA draft and was taken with the 25th overall pick last month by San Antonio.
Wesley was accompanied to ND by South Bend St. Joseph grad J.R. Konieczny (ranked 129th by Rivals), who returns to the Irish this coming season.
Burton said Friday that he’s been influenced by those Irish players “from the 574,” and that he wants to continue the trend of being a major contributor from within the community.
“I talk to Blake and Demetrius a lot,” said Burton, adding that he used to work out with Jackson on a regular basis.
He said it was Wesley who clued him in that ND was interested in him before such overtures became obvious.
“He just said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing,’” Burton said of Wesley, “and I appreciated that.”
The reigning MVP of the Northern Indiana Conference and an Indiana Junior All-Star, Burton enters his senior season at Penn with 1,364 points, needing just 339 more to become the program’s all-time scoring leader.
He’s also been a ballhawk defensively for the Kingsmen.
Last winter, as a junior, Burton averaged team-leading figures of 27.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 3.2 steals while pacing Hall of Fame coach Al Rhodes’ club to a 24-3 record. Penn lost 59-48 in the Class 4A regional championship round to then-undefeated Chesterton.
As a sophomore, Burton closed at 16.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 3.0 steals, each figure team-leading as well, and as a freshman he landed at 11.2 points to go with club-pacing totals of 4.2 assists and 2.7 steals.
The son of Markus Burton Sr. and Michelle Taylor, Markus Jr. is the oldest of five siblings.
“Probably like (age) 5,” Burton said of when he first took up a sport he’s approached relentlessly the last few years. “Started playing with my dad first, and after that, I just loved basketball. I’d do it all day if I could. I’d fall asleep in the gym if I could.”
Markus Sr. played at South Bend Riley.
“Both,” he said with a smile of whether he pushed the game on his son or his son pushed himself. “I activated it.”
Besides his parents, Burton was joined at the head table for Friday’s press gathering at Penn by Brandon McKnight, who has been a mentor to him. McKnight was a three-year starter at Purdue who went on to play professionally in Europe after capping his Boilermaker career in 2005.
“Just his natural instincts, his ball-handling ability,” McKnight said of what sticks out about Burton. “Everybody knows that he can score, but the fact that he makes everybody better is special. I think that’s what coach Brey sees in him, too.”
McKnight says he anticipates Burton being “a top player in the ACC as a freshman,” but also joked that when Burton told him of his decision, “I said, ‘Man, are you sure you don’t want to go to West Lafayette?’”
West Lafayette, as in Purdue, apparently wasn’t offering yet, nor was any other major power.
The offers that Burton did receive included eight in a span of eight days last month from Miami of Ohio, Missouri State, Southern Indiana, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Ball State, Appalachian State, Western Michigan and Illinois-Chicago. More recently, Drake also extended an invitation.
While Burton is just 6-foot and possessing a thin frame, he’s also fairly chiseled by high school basketball standards.
“I feel obviously it’s my size,” Burton said when asked if that’s why some schools steered clear of him, “(but) honestly, I just play. I can’t really control (what others think). I just go out and play hard.”
But is there a message for those schools that passed on him?
“Nah,” Burton said, before adding, “just be ready.”
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