A Team Leader
- By Julie Brown
- July 11, 2011 02:15 PM
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – With the loss of five seniors in Madina Ali, Korinne Campbell, Vanessa House, Sarah Miles and Liz Repella, the West Virginia women’s basketball team will undoubtedly have a young roster when the season starts in November.
But if this year’s lone senior, Natalie Burton, is any indication of the hard work and effort the team is already putting forth this summer, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about.
A native of Perth, Australia, Burton chose not to go home for the beginning of the summer as she’s done the past three years, instead opting to stay in Morgantown and work on her game.
“I figured it was going to be my last season so I could tough it out and not see home for another year,” she explained. “I really wanted to stay and work on my game because when I’m here all we do is class and workouts. When I’m home there are a lot of distractions, so I figured I would stay here and work with Andy (Kettler) and the team.”
The team has been hard at work, with lifting three times a week and conditioning twice a week. They’ve also had open gym sessions and time to work on their shooting and overall game.
As a senior, Burton is now used to these summer workouts, but looking back at her freshman year, she’s amazed when she sees just how far she’s come.
“It’s just crazy to look back at what I was like as a freshman,” she said. “Just how I felt out of place, not just basketball wise but in life because it was like a culture shock; it really was. And now I’m just so used to it here; it’s my home. I don’t know how I’m going to leave all my friends and Morgantown at the end of the year.”
Burton got her start in basketball at a young age. Always active and always playing at least one sport per season, her mother suggested basketball when winter came around.
“We were always playing sports and always active back home because it’s nice weather, so much nicer than it is here,” she said with a laugh. “Everyone’s always outside. So when winter came around and it was time to pick a sport my mum thought we should try basketball. So we went and joined a club and I’ve been playing ever since.”
When she was older, in addition to being a five-year member of the West Australia State Team, Burton was picked as a representative for her state for a nationwide competition. In the crowd that came to watch were plenty of scouts and others with connections to colleges in the United States.
“One of the scouts contacted me and said that colleges over here might be interested in me, so I put the word out and I got called up by West Virginia and here I am.”
Now holding a leadership role on the team, Burton knows that it’s up to her to set the right example and be a leader for the younger players.
“Obviously, I’ve been here for three years already so I know what’s going on,” she stated. “I need to make sure that when the freshmen and the younger players are struggling I can be there to tell them how’s it’s supposed to be and to help them out because I know what they’re going through and what’s expected of them. I just need to be a good leader, and having been here three years and knowing the coaches and knowing how things work, I can help with that.”
Despite the loss of last year’s five seniors, the team still holds a close bond, something that Burton sees as the key to having another successful season.
“I think we all need to stay together,” the 6-foot-5-inch center said. “Even though those five players are gone, there are still a few of us left that are really close. The freshman coming in, we’ll get along with them and they’ll meld and transition in with us and they’ll fit in fine.
“We need to keep the chemistry we have off the court and bring it on the court. I think that will be key.”
As for plans for the future, the finance major knows that she wants to stay in the U.S. and see if there are any opportunities here. And if presented with a chance to continue playing basketball, she certainly won’t turn it down.
“I’ve always loved basketball and I always will, so if there’s an opportunity for that then I’ll take it.”
But these are thoughts for the future. After all, there’s still plenty of basketball to be played before then.
West Virginia University women's basketball