We’re still technically in the throes of the college football season, but for all you cynics out there who are disenchanted after Notre Dame football’s second loss of the year, have no fear! You can start thinking about college basketball and the seemingly perpetual disappointment that is the Fighting Irish men’s hoops program. So, here is a very compressed series of breakdowns for the new additions to the Notre Dame basketball program.
Author’s note: I meant to start this series a couple of weeks ago, but law school is a busy time.
First up is Indiana Mr. Basketball award winner Markus Burton out of Penn High School in Mishawaka. Burton originally committed to former Irish head coach Mike Brey in July of 2022 and maintained his pledge despite the decommitments of classmates Parker Friedrichsen and Brady Dunlap once Brey announced his retirement.
A three-star recruit sitting just outside the top-150 nationally per 247Sports Composite, Burton received offers from the likes of Appalachian State, Ball State, Drake and Miami (OH). Although that offer list may not impress, it should probably be seen more as a reflection of other programs not wanting to expend resources trying to flip a guy solidly committed to his hometown team. Here’s what he brings to the table.
Slasher and Midrange Operator
Notre Dame lists Burton (generously) at 5-foot-11and 166 pounds. But despite his physical stature, Burton plays an aggressive, attacking style. While his bread and butter is his midrange pull-up, his offensive game is impressively balanced between scoring in the midrange, in the paint and beyond the three-point arc.
As you’ll see if you scrub through that video, Burton also likes to take the ball coast-to-coast when he gets a defensive rebound. Granted, his size is probably going to limit his ability to do that in college (more on that later), and the level of competition in the Northern Indiana Athletic Conference isn’t exactly world-beating. Regardless, his scoring traits are very nicely polished at this stage of his career.
Competitive and Fearless
As a senior, Burton led the state of Indiana in scoring at 30.3 points per game and led Penn to a program-best 28-2 record. He’s the first Indiana Mr. Basketball from South Bend since 1978 and the first Indiana Mr. Basketball to play for Notre Dame since Luke Zeller, who won the award in 2005.
A player of Burton’s physical stature doesn’t come as far as he has without an edge and a drive to win. He’s fiery and demonstrative and fearless attacking the basket. Put simply, he’s a microwave. You give him the ball and let him cook.
Of course, as alluded to previously, Burton’s role and ceiling at the collegiate level will remain a question until he demonstrates the ability to compensate for his physical shortcomings. Still, Burton has shown enough fearlessness and confidence that he shouldn’t be written off as a doomed prospect.
This past spring, Burton led Penn against Kokomo High School in the Indiana 4A North Semi State Championship. Kokomo was headlined by Kansas Jayhawk commit Flory Bidunga, a 5-star in the 2024 recruiting class and the No. 1 center in the country per 247Sports Composite.
Despite Burton’s size disadvantage, he frequently challenged the 6-foot-8 Bidunga in the paint. To be sure, more than once that ended in Burton getting his shot blocked, but he also won his share of battles. Bidunga finished that game with 25 points, 22 rebounds and 5 blocks, and yet Burton’s 27 points were nearly enough for Penn to pull out the win before ultimately falling 58-57 to Kokomo.
I’m sure the last thing Burton wanted to take away from that game was a moral victory, but his performance bodes well for his potential to overcome collegiate-level size and athleticism.
Player Comp: Carsen Edwards
Career stats: 17.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.5 apg, 41.2% FG, 36.8% 3P, 81.7% FT
Best season (2018-19): 24.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.9 apg, 39.4% FG, 35.5% 3P, 83.7% FT
DISCLAIMER: I am in no way claiming that Markus Burton will be as good a college basketball player as Carsen Edwards.
I could have gone with a more familiar Notre Dame name and said Prentiss Hubb, but I’m sure that would trigger some Irish fans. And while Hubb was a scoring guard at times, he was very streaky and he ultimately took on a facilitator role in his last year with the program. Burton, on the other hand, just feels a bit more refined when it comes to putting the ball in the basket, and that talent would be wasted if he were made into a primary distributor. (Hubb also tore his ACL as a high school senior and had to learn on the fly as Notre Dame’s starting point guard since his freshman season, if that’s any defense for my old college dormmate/classmate).
So I’ll go with Edwards here since he and Burton are both high-usage, undersized scoring point guards. That in-and-of-itself is a tough role to pull off, but it is possible. At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Edwards led Purdue on an Elite Eight run in the 2019 NCAA Tournament that saw them nearly upset eventual national championship Virginia.
Although Notre Dame head coach Micah Shrewsberry never had the chance to coach Edwards as an assistant with either Purdue or the Boston Celtics (ironically, they each swapped locations during the same offseason), there is a connection there. Perhaps some of Boilermakers head coach Matt Painter’s insights on using an undersized scoring guard rubbed off on Shrewsberry.
Shrewsberry’s first year as head coach is going to be unpredictable. It’s no secret that this program is being rebuilt from the ground up, and that’s going to lead to a lot of tweaking along the way.
Because of how dynamic a scorer he can be on a roster that lacks many proven scorers, I expect Burton to log some starts by the end of his freshman year, even if he doesn’t play much to begin the season. As for later in his career, it depends on how well he responds to work in the weight room (and how quickly Shrewsberry can resurrect the program).
I’d venture so far as to say that Burton’s ceiling could be as high as a first- or second-team All-ACC selection. That’s certainly not a given, but it would be a great story for the kid from Mishawaka.