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Willie Burton (basketball, born 1962)

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Name  Willie Burton
Listed height  201 cm (6 ft 7 in)
Role  Basketball Player
Playing career  1985–2006
Position  Power forward
1985–1986  Palmerston North Jets

Willie Burton (basketball, born 1962) 50Point Games Willie Burton NBAcom
Born  24 June 1962 (age 53) Georgia, United States (1962-06-24)
High school  Jenkins County (Millen, Georgia)
NBA draft  1984 / Round: 6 / Pick: 125th overall
College  Tennessee Volunteers basketball (1980–1984)

Nationality  American / New Zealand

Catching up with willie burton


Willie James Burton Jr. (born 24 June 1962) is an American-New Zealand former professional basketball player who spent 19 seasons playing in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NBL). Burton came to New Zealand in the mid-1980s to play for Palmerston North and became a league legend. He kept himself in great shape and was still playing top basketball when he turned 40. He won six rebounding titles and ranks as the league's all-time leader around the boards. He finished his career with 4,244 career rebounds, nearly 1,500 rebounds more than the next best individual rebounding total.

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Early life and career

Burton grew up playing baseball in his hometown of Millen, Georgia. Lanky, flexible and possessing lightning reflexes, Burton stood head and shoulders above others as a "cornerman" for his team at the age of 12. His father, Willie James Sr., was a keen baseball player, but Burton was not so much. Luckily for Burton, a friend, Alonzo Holmes, lived down the road in his neighbourhood and introduced him to basketball. He went on to play four years of college basketball for the University of Tennessee between 1980 and 1984. He appeared in 111 games for the Volunteers over his career, and averaged a team-high 13.5 points per game as a senior in 1983–84. He also led the team in rebounds per game as a junior and senior (8.1 and 7.3 per game respectively), and blocks per game as a sophomore and junior (1.3 and 0.8 per game respectively).

Following his senior season with Tennessee, Burton was selected in the sixth round of the 1984 NBA draft by the Denver Nuggets. He subsequently attended training camp with the Nuggets, but he did not make the final roster cut.

NBL career

In 1985, Burton moved to New Zealand and joined the Palmerston North Jets of the National Basketball League (NBL). In his first season, he averaged 28.6 points and a league-high 16.1 rebounds per game. He continued on with the Jets in 1986 before joining the Hawke's Bay Hawks in 1987. After two seasons with the Hawks, he returned to Palmerston North, playing for them in 1989 and 1990. In 1991, he joined New Plymouth and played three seasons for the team before returning to Hawke's Bay in 1994 where he spent the next four years. After taking a break in 1998, he returned to Palmerston North for a third stint in 1999, but again re-joined the Hawks just two seasons later. Burton retired following the 2002 season, but came out of retirement in 2005 to help the Hawks reach the grand final. Pushing for his first championship, Burton came very close as the Hawks were defeated by the Auckland Stars by one point. He played one final season in 2006, this time leading the Hawks to victory with an 85–69 grand final win over Auckland. He retired for a second time following the 2006 season, departing the NBL after 19 seasons, claiming his first and only championship in his final season.

Burton finished his NBL career as an eight-time All-Star Five honouree and a six-time rebounding champion. He was also named Most Outstanding Forward in 1989, and after gaining New Zealand citizenship in the mid-90s, he was named Most Outstanding Kiwi Forward/Centre in 1997. As evidence of his all-round game, he also won the league assist title in 1999 with 5.6 assists per game. His 4,244 career rebounds ranks first on the league's all-time rebounding list.

After retiring from playing, Burton continued on as an assistant coach with the Hawks, while also coaching the Hawke's Bay under 15, 17 and 19 men's teams.

National team career

Burton's all-round game made him an ideal substitute off the bench for Tall Black captain Pero Cameron when he was selected to play for New Zealand at the 2001 Goodwill Games at the age of 39. He then played a crucial part in the historic series victory over Australia later that year. Burton was still in the selection mix for the 2002 FIBA World Championship, but was replaced by Ed Book as the team's one allowable naturalised player following the team's series against Hungary.

Personal

Burton and his wife Suzanne, a New Zealander, have two sons, Alonzo and Dominique. Alonzo followed in his father's footsteps and joined the Hawke's Bay Hawks in 2012.

References

Willie Burton (basketball, born 1962) Wikipedia


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