“My mind-set has certainly not changed, and I just want to continue to get better and better.”
Held in person for the first time since 2019, Burton was one of 12 prospects invited to attend Monday’s draft at Spring Studios in New York City. Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard went first overall to the Atlanta Dream, followed by to Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith to the Indiana Fever.
Ole Miss’s Shakira Austin was taken third by the Washington Mystics, and the Fever doubled up on bigs with Louisville’s Emily Engstler at No. 4. Oregon’s Nyara Sabally went fifth to the New York Liberty, and Stanford’s Lexie Hull was taken sixth, also by the Fever, to precede Burton’s selection.
A 5-foot-9 point guard, Burton established herself as one of the nation’s premier defensive players, picking up three Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors and the 2022 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s Defensive Player of the Year Award. She also earned the program’s first ever AP All-American team nod after her selection to the third team this year. Burton is the fourth WNBA draftee in Northwestern program history.
Franklin’s Lauren Manis was recently signed to a training camp contract with the Seattle Storm. Wellesley’s Blake Dietrick, Sudbury’s Carolyn Swords, and Boston’s Shey Peddy have played in the WNBA in recent years.
Getting selected in the 36-pick WNBA draft is hard, but sticking in the league is even harder. With only 12 teams and 12 players on each roster, spots are limited. With 450 roster spots in the NBA and only 144 in the WNBA, the latter is a true league of stars. Burton is on her way to being one of them.
Lindsey Pulliam, a three-year teammate of Burton’s at Northwestern, understands the WNBA’s roster situation well. A dynamite scorer who racked up more than 2,000 points in her college career, Pulliam was selected by the Atlanta Dream 27th overall in 2021. Pulliam, who learned WNBA teams began scouting her as a college junior, was waived during training camp. She played professionally in Turkey last season but hopes to return to the WNBA and play with or against Burton.
Pulliam’s advice to Burton, whose breakout junior season also put her on the WNBA map, is to approach training camp looking to make an immediate impact.
”You can’t decide who’s going to make the roster, but you can go out on the court and do everything that you can to make sure the coach knows that you should be on the team,” Pulliam said. “I think if she does all the little things, like she always does, she’ll be on that roster.”
Burton joins a Wings team that went 14-18 last year, losing in the first round of the playoffs, with former Notre Dame stars Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey leading the team in scoring. Burton spoke with Dallas coach Vickie Johnson and other Wings brass ahead of the draft and felt an instant connection – even through a virtual meeting. Johnson told Burton she was looking for a standout defender.
“And that’s what I’m going to give her,” Burton said. “I’m excited to fill that role. Whatever they ask me to do, I’m going to try and do it.”
In a family with near double-digit Division I athletes who competed in basketball, football, and swimming at Northwestern, Lehigh, UCLA, Villanova, and Purdue, Burton is the first to go pro since her late grandfather, Ron, was the Patriots’ first-ever draft pick in 1960.
“It’s very cool,” said JoAnn Burton, Veronica’s grandmother. “I’m not surprised… Well, I’m always surprised when anybody can get to the pros, but I think she has within her this gift of determination.”
Joined by her parents, Ginni and Steve, and oldest sister Kendall with her at the draft, Burton credited her family as her inspiration.
WNBA training camps begin on April 17. The regular season tips off on May 6.
”These are the moments that you dream about as a young girl,” Burton said. “To see that hard work pay off, it was an unmatched feeling. I’m thrilled to be going to Dallas, and I can’t wait to get started.”
2022 WNBA Draft Selections
Listing team, player, and college:
1. Atlanta, Rhyne Howard, Kentucky
2. Indiana, NaLyssa Smith, Baylor
3. Washington, Shakira Austin, Mississippi
4. Indiana, Emily Engstler, Louisville
5. New York, Nyara Sabally, Oregon
6. Indiana, Lexie Hull, Stanford
7. Dallas, Veronica Burton, Northwestern
8. Las Vegas, Mya Hollingshed, Colorado
9. Los Angeles, Rae Burrell, Tennessee
10. Indiana, Queen Egbo, Baylor
11. Las Vegas, Kierstan Bell, Florida Gulf Coast
12. Connecticut, Nia Clouden, Michigan State
13. Las Vegas, Khayla Pointer, LSU
14. Washington, Christyn Williams, UConn
15. Atlanta, Naz Hillmon, Michigan
16. Los Angeles, Kianna Smith, Louisville
17. Seattle, Elissa Cunane, N.C. State
18. New York, Lorela Cubaj, Georgia Tech
19. Los Angeles, Olivia Nelson-Ododa, UConn
20. Indiana, Destanni Henderson, South Carolina
21. Seattle, Evina Westbrook, UConn
22. Minnesota, Kayla Jones, N.C. State
23. Las Vegas, Aisha Sheppard, Virginia Tech
24. Connecticut, Jordan Lewis, Baylor
25. Indiana, Ameshya Williams-Holliday, Jackson State
26. Phoenix, Maya Dodson, Notre Dame
27. Los Angeles, Amy Atwell, Hawaii
28. Minnesota, Hannah Sjerven, South Dakota
29. New York, Sika Kone, Mali
30. Dallas, Jasmine Dickey, Delaware
31. Dallas, Jaz Bond, North Florida
32. Phoenix, Macee Williams, IUPUI
33. Seattle, Jade Melbourne, Australia
34. Indiana, Ali Patberg, Indiana
35. Las Vegas, Faustine Aifuwa, LSU
36. Connecticut, Kiara Smith, Florida