MISHAWAKA — Penn Boys basketball coach Al Rhodes schedules his team through a tough summer schedule every year. But this year, in terms of demand for time, training and matches, has been on another level.
Rhodes said he was looking for games against schools in the Indianapolis area. The Kingsmen went to Purdue for a shootout and also played in the Charlie Hughes Tournament in Indianapolis. Rhodes wanted to see how his team would perform. In his eyes, they passed with flying colors. But no one on Penn’s roster has enjoyed it more, turned more heads and opened more eyes than future senior guard Markus Burton.
Burton had been a hot name in northern Indiana after his breakout junior season this fall. He continued his hot streak throughout the summer, especially at Indianapolis in wins over Carmel, Mt. Vernon and 4A champion Indy Cathedral, where Burton scored 35 points.
Many top college coaches, including Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, Michigan coach Juwan Howard, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann, Illinois coach Brad Underwood, Auburn coach Bruce Pearl, along with assistants from Indiana, Purdue, Missouri, according to The Indianapolis Star, were at that game watching Xavier Booker de Cathedral, currently ranked the No. 2 recruit in the nation in the class of 2024.
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Burton played like a regular guy, not just that night, but throughout the tournament. In addition to his big game against Cathedral, Burton also scored 28 points against Carmel.
“Everyone I spoke to was extremely impressed with the way he played and competed,” Rhodes said. “We hope this translates into more scholarships for him.
“Individually we build around him. This weekend he played extremely well in all facets of the game.”
Burton’s recruiting has slowly begun to blossom over the past season. He received his first college offer from the local Bethel in late January. And his first division that I offer came from Indiana Purdue (Fort Wayne) in early March. Since early June, Burton has added nine more from Drake, at University Illinois-Chicago, Ball State, Appalachian State, Missouri State, Miami (Ohio), Western Michigan Southern Illinois (Edwardsville) and Southern Indiana.
“I just figured it all out,” Burton said of his explosive recruiting. “Stay humble, stay modest and don’t get too big of a head.”
For Burton, it felt like the inevitable. Last year, he set a single-season program points record with 734, averaging a team-high 27.2 points per game while adding 5.6 assists, 3.6 steals and 6.3 rebounds and played on the Indiana Junior All-Star team. He was too good not to be heavily recruited, but it just took time.
“I feel like last summer was hard to point out because of COVID,” Burton said. “I feel like this summer it’s been a lot easier.”
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There are also renowned schools calling. Rhodes said he’s had calls from coaches at Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and even Notre Dame, which is taking notice.
“Coach Brey was in the game (against Cathedral. The Irish are also signing Booker),” Rhodes said. “I think he was impressed with what Markus did. They told me they were watching him throughout the EYBL (Nike AAU Circuit) and would make a decision later.”
Notre Dame recently brought in local kids including Demetrius Jackson of Mishawaka Marian, JR Konieczny of South Bend Saint Joseph and Blake Wesley of South Bend Riley, who was just picked in the first round by the San Antonio Spurs in the draft of the NBA 2022 last month. . Burton said he dreams of being the next local kid to join this list.
“They (Notre Dame) are in the process with everything,” Burton said. “Just waiting and being patient. It would mean a lot to me, knowing I’m a hometown kid, going to a great school like that. I’ve always wanted to play for Notre Dame.”
Rhodes has gone through this process with his players many times during his long coaching career. His goal for Burton is to help him find the perfect school before the season starts.
Then Burton can try to help Penn reach Gainbridge Fieldhouse next winter.
“I just want him to continue to be the great team player that he is and lead us to a state championship,” Rhodes said. “It would certainly strengthen his legacy at Penn and also create more college opportunities.”