Veronica Burton is a leader of the women’s basketball team’s vaunted “blizzard” defense. The two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year averaged better than four steals per game this season, tops in the nation.
And while the junior guard has continued her record-breaking defensive play — she was named one of four finalists for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award in March — Burton also has elevated her offensive game, averaging 16 points per contest.
Burton says that the COVID restrictions allowed her time to focus on scoring. “During quarantine, one of the only things I could do was go to the gym,” she says. “That gave me a sense of normalcy. I used the extra time to do conditioning and get more shots up.” Burton says playing in a pandemic has been an adjustment, but it’s made her team stronger. “We have really emphasized being dedicated to each other and trying to maintain our bubble,” she says. “We’re trying to tune everything out and just play the sport we love.”
It’s something special for Burton to play the sport she loves for the University that has been home to her family for generations. Her grandfather, the late Ron Burton ’60, was an All-American running back for the football team. Her father, Steve Burton ’85, ’88 MS, played quarterback for the Wildcats, and her mother, Ginni Vath Burton ’85, was an All-American swimmer for Northwestern. Three of her uncles also played football at Northwestern. “Being able to wear the same jersey, the same colors that my parents did — it’s surreal,” Burton says. “I’m just so blessed to have that opportunity, and Northwestern is the only place that could provide that.”