Injury to teammate thrusts Burton into spotlight for Iowa St
AMES, Iowa (AP) Iowa State had hoped to ease Marquette transfer Deonte Burton into its rotation.
The loss of Naz Mitrou-Long for the season because of hip injuries did away with that luxury.
Burton, a 6-foot-4 guard/forward, will be counted on as a key contributor for the fifth-ranked Cyclones (9-0) starting with Saturday's game against Northern Iowa (6-3) in Des Moines.
Burton, a sophomore, averaged 6.9 points in 32 games at Marquette. The Big 12 preseason newcomer of the year was forced to sit out the fall semester after leaving Marquette eight games into last season.
''Now his role is defined,'' Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. ''The beat's got to go on.''
Even though Iowa State has one of the most talented rosters in the country, it has only used seven players for the majority of the year. The Cyclones will essentially swap out Mitrou-Long for Burton - even though they're completely different players.
Though Burton is a bit short for a traditional forward, Iowa State plans to use him extensively in its frontcourt.
The 250-pound Burton doesn't possess Mitrou-Long's ability to hit 3-pointers, but he should add plenty on the defensive end. He also gives the Cyclones a more physical presence down low.
''What he brings to this team is just an aggressive nature,'' senior forward Georges Niang said. ''His tenacity, his ability to guard other people and rebound ... is really going to help us take the pressure off of me, (point guard) Monte (Morris) and (center) Jameel (McKay).''
Burton isn't likely to start: Iowa State will instead counter Mitrou-Long's absence by moving guard Matt Thomas into the starting lineup. Thomas responded to his first start of the season with 17 points on 5 of 8 shooting from 3-point range in Sunday's 78-64 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
The Cyclones will also likely give additional minutes to guard Hallice Cooke, who matched a season-high with 11 points Sunday as Mitrou-Long rested in an effort to let ailing hips heal following offseason surgery.
It didn't work. But it was far from a coincidence that Mitrou-Long decided to seek a medical redshirt the same week that Burton became eligible.
Mitrou-Long said Burton's emergence helped him feel comfortable enough to walk away and rest up for 2016-17.
''I felt like it was the perfect time,'' Mitrou-Long said. ''I couldn't leave these guys if I didn't know someone else was coming in to take my place. Someone I believe in.''
The opening game of Saturday's doubleheader in Des Moines will pit Iowa against Drake. Though Drake (4-6) will be playing mere miles from campus, it should feel like a home game for the Hawkeyes (7-3).
Iowa could use a matchup against what should be an overmatched opponent after blowing a 20-point lead in last week's loss to the Cyclones.
''You can't get emotional one way or the other, and I get it. It's hard. Everybody is writing about it. Everybody is tweeting about it, and they're attacking you or they're loving you. But it's such a long journey, you can't get caught up in that,'' Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. ''Fortunately we have some older guys, I think, that can handle that.''
Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter at www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LukeMeredithAP