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AMES — Trust is fragile. Gaining it doesn’t happen instantaneously, and it’s often lost a lot easier than it’s gained.
Iowa State men’s basketball coach Steve Prohm and guard Deonte Burton took a full season to figure each other out, slowly building trust with one another.
Whatever might have lacked last year is anything but absent now.
“I’ve asked him a couple times, ‘Why the change? What made you make this change?’” Prohm said. “I hope I played a small part in it, but 90 percent has to come from him. You become a senior and you understand this is your last year.”
That’s exactly what Burton did.
The 6-foot-5 and 250-pound senior did some soul-searching in the offseason — including entering the NBA Draft without signing an agent — realizing a change in mindset can alter the trajectory of his Cyclones team in a positive way. Similar to how departed senior Abdel Nader, who was drafted in the second round of the NBA draft by the Boston Celtics this summer, was the X-factor for Iowa State a year ago, Burton has a chance to make a similar impact alongside a talented cast of guards.
“I’ve got one more chance,” Burton said. “Now this is my last chance and I have to go out with a bang. I have to do everything I can within my power to leave, what we call, the jersey in a better place.”
Burton spent more time in the gym this summer than he had previously, hoping to improve upon his 9.7 points and 3.9 rebounds averaged as a junior while shooting 53 percent from the field and 47 percent from long range.
Comparisons can be drawn to Nader as an X-factor, but Burton also could be put in similar situations to what made Georges Niang, now with the Indiana Pacers, successful around the hoop.
There has never been any reason to doubt Burton’s athleticism — he won the Hilton Madness dunk contest for the second straight year last Friday and is a breakaway dunk waiting to happen — but his attention to detail has improved. The Milwaukee native’s boost in maturity had a lot to do with that.
“There’s a lot of opportunity in his position,” said guard Naz Mitrou-Long. “One of the best players to ever play here played that position last year and now he’s gone. Deonte is as athletic of a player as I’ve ever been around.
“He can shoot the ball and put it on the deck, so I just want him to be more aggressive. When he’s aggressive, there’s nobody in the country that can stop him.”
Prohm wasn’t shy about placing expectations on Burton, wanting him to average a double double. Burton’s versatility to play on the perimeter or around the block lends him to do a little bit of everything and, for Iowa State to be successful, he’ll likely have to be active everywhere.
“He’s been exceptional,” Prohm said. “If he can change and if he can have success, man, that’s going to help him down the road be so much better in so many areas.”
So what does Burton think about Prohm’s challenge to rebound more?
“I’m going to get 12 (rebounds),” Burton said. “If he wants me to get 10, I’m going to get 12.”
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