A knee injury that sidelined Jamarius Burton last summer sent him under the radar and gave him a chip on his shoulder, a quality he would share with many in Wichita State's recruiting class of 2018.
Burton, a 6-foot-5 point guard from Charlotte, N.C., rated as a three-star prospect, completed his fifth and final official visit to Wichita State on Tuesday and Wednesday. He is expected to decide between WSU, Butler, Massachusetts, and Temple on Friday afternoon live on YouTube.
After returning from injury, Burton led Independence High to a state championship during a senior year that saw him average a team-best 16.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 2.2 steals. His play sold WSU on Burton as a high-upside, versatile lead guard.
Derrick Wall, Burton's former AAU coach on Team Loaded NC, wasn't surprised to see Burton's recruiting take off in the spring.
"He's a leader and a winner," Wall said. "On the court, he's a floor general. Whatever school ends up getting him, they're getting a pit bull. He's a natural lead guard who can run a team, score the ball, and loves to play defense. He'll do whatever it takes to win."
Wall said that Burton's recruiting took off during his 16U year on the AAU circuit when he played him at point guard on Team Loaded NC, which had several Division I prospects. Coaches were intrigued by his playmaking ability paired with his height.
But almost all of the schools who were showing interest then stopped after Burton tore an anterior cruciate ligament, which cost him his junior season of high school and summer ball. Wall said that has motivated Burton.
"If he ends up at Wichita State, it ain't going to be pretty when he plays East Carolina," Wall said. "I know they have a new staff now, but they were one of the schools that stopped recruiting him because of the injury. It's like once that happened, they all went their separate directions."
Assistants Donnie Jones and Kyle Lindsted have been in constant contact with Burton and Wall said that he has enjoyed his interactions with coach Gregg Marshall.
The staff has already signed six players to its 2018 class but has two scholarships remaining and has made finding guards a priority.
Wall said that Burton's love for defense would fit right in at Wichita State.
"Anytime we ever played a team that had a kid that was ranked, that's who Jamarius wanted to guard," Wall said. "He can guard four different positions. I had him guarding the four man in some lineups. If our four man was having problems, we'd put Jamarius on him. It didn't matter if he was 6-9. He knows he can guard anybody."
At 6-5, Burton has the ability to bully smaller guards close to the basket. His height also opens up different angles in passing and gives Burton the defensive versatility to switch on nearly every screen.
Wichita State has the benefit of being the final visit before Burton makes his decision. After spending time in Wichita the last two days, Burton flew back to Charlotte on Wednesday evening and will weigh his options before announcing his decision at 12:40 p.m. Friday at his high school.
"He's looking for a family atmosphere, somewhere he can go and develop and grow as a player," Wall said. "His goal is to make it to the NBA and he loves the story of Ron Baker, how he was a walk-on and now he's making big money with the Knicks. He loves that Coach Marshall has taken guys and developed them into professionals."