In his first season at Wichita State, Jamarius Burton fit many job descriptions and filled many roles.
He played point guard like a fullback with his bruising drives to the basket and his mastery of the pick-and-roll. He took care of his fitness and body like a veteran with a devotion to stretching and rest. Coaches used him as the team’s multi-tool because of his ability to guard bigger opponents and play all perimeter positions.
As a sophomore, he added one important description – shooting threat.
Burton appears to be an improved shooter and his new-found accuracy has the potential to change a lot for Wichita State’s offense.
“I’ve told him multiple times: I think if he can make 40 percent of his threes and was a threat with that, he would be an all-conference player,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. “He took that challenge, which is great. It just looks better coming out of his hand. Last year, it just looked like he didn’t want to let it go.”
Wichita State (6-1) plays Central Arkansas (1-6) at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5 on Yurview Kansas (Cox Ch. 2022) and streaming on yurview.com.
Burton, a 6-foot-4 guard from Charlotte, N.C., is shooting 47.8 percent from the field and 60 percent (6 of 10) from behind the arc. He averages 9.8 points a game, plus 3.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists in six games, one in which an ankle injury limited him to five minutes of playing time.
He returned after missing a game to score 18 points and make 4 of 5 three-pointers against UT Martin.
Last season, Burton shot 39 percent from the field and made 10 of 38 three-pointers (26.3 percent). He set a freshman school record with 126 assists and his 1.85 assist-to-turnover ratio led all American Athletic Conference freshmen.
Defense was never an issue with Burton. That comes from his background, which is all about competition and defense.
“He’s got some toughness and nasty,” Marshall said. “He’s got some competitive juices and fire in his belly.”
Burton went to work on the jump shot in the off-season, motivated by Marshall’s challenge and the video evidence. Defenders sagged off him last season and went under screens because they didn’t fear his shooting.
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“Players were leaving going to double my teammates and stuff,” Burton said. “When I watched it on the film last year and coaches pointed it out, I was like ‘Yeah, that’s kind of disrespectful. I need to do something.”
That something meant time in the gym smoothing out his release and slightly adjusting his form.
“I tried to get a lot of reps with the ball in front, letting it be more fluid,” Burton said before the season. “The coaches were giving me constructive criticism on it, basically saying I was pulling it back behind my head too far.”
Burton followed the UT Martin game with 15 points against Gardner-Webb and 14 against Oral Roberts. His scoring slipped last week against South Carolina (10 points on 3-of-8 shooting) and West Virginia (two points on 0-for-6 shooting).
When Burton makes three-pointers, Wichita State’s offense can operate with much more space in the lane.
“It was nice when he hit a couple, and then they had to come out and play him,” Marshall said. “In the past, I would say, three seasons, we’ve had a defender that camps himself in the lane, because he’s daring someone to shoot.”
While Burton, and other Shockers, show bursts of scoring, their performances haven’t been consistent. The loss to West Virginia in the Cancun Challenge provided another marker. Wichita State shot 30.6 percent in the 75-63 loss and looked uncomfortable running their offense against the Mountaineers.
After Thursday’s game against Central Arkansas, the Shockers face another crucial stretch with games at Oklahoma State (Dec. 8), against Oklahoma at Intrust Bank Arena (Dec. 14) and against VCU (Dec. 21).
“I just think we’re going to have to compete more and harder,” Marshall said. “West Virginia exposed that, and they’ve got a pretty special brand of athlete, especially inside, but they beat us on the glass with their second effort, quickness and all of the things they were able to do. We need to compete a little more, show some resolve and backbone.”
Watch Central Arkansas vs. Wichita State men’s basketball – Thursday, December 5th at 7:00 pm CT on Yurview Kansas (Cox Ch. 2022) and streaming on yurview.com.