When you are doing things like this countdown, sometimes you make a list of 30 players who represent everything you love about Cincinnati basketball. You leave off people like Donald Little, who went to jail over aggravated assault charges. Donald Little would have never, ever made the list, but that charge made him not even a thought. You have someone like Ruben Patterson, who was a great player. But Ruben Patterson was not a great person off the court. Anthony Buford was on the 92 Final Four team. He was a leader on that squad. He was entrenched in the Bearcat community as an announcer for years and years. He and his girlfriend thought it was a good idea to get loans for mortgages and never pay for them. I don’t know why he thought they wouldn’t get caught. But they got caught. Right now, he’s in jail. I didn’t think he could make the list because of that.
I tell those stories not to tarnish the image of Cincinnati basketball, but to admit right up front that I didn’t know the next player on the list got caught up in a criminal matter. I absolutely would have dropped him way down the list or dropped him off the list completely. I know that what he did as a man in his 30s doesn’t take away what he did in his early 20s, but it kind of does. When you think of someone like, well I can only think of OJ Simpson and Chris Benoit for examples and they are horrible examples because they ‘allegedly’ murdered people. That’s not the same at all. Nate Newton was a Cowboy on the Super Bowl winning teams. You probably don’t think of his blocking. You remember the, “Hey, that’s the guy who got busted with 200 pounds of pot in a van,” story. This guy didn’t have a flashy national story like that, but he had a local story that bummed people out. That player is Darnell Burton.
Darnell Burton was one of the absolute best shooters to ever put on a Cincinnati uniform. He held the record for most 3 pointers made as a Bearcat until Deonta Vaughn broke it a few years ago. He left Cincinnati as the second best player in school history at getting steals. He was the best 3 point shooter, by percentage, when he left. That was broken by another man on the list, Field Williams. Burton also played in 130 games, which still is one of the highest totals in UC history.
Unfortunately, we don’t have much in the way of game by game stats for when Burton first put on a UC uniform. We do have his freshman season totals. Burton played in 32 games back in 93-94. He was not the hot shot freshman recruit. That would be Dontonio Wingfield. Damon Flint was the second most notable recruit on that squad. On a Bearcat team that loved to gun 3s, 4 players attempted 109 or more, Burton was 3rd in makes and attempts. It should be noted he made 49 and the guy who was second on the team made 50. And only made 29%. Burton was the 4th leading scorer on that Bearcat team. He was 90-229, 39% from the field. He hit 49-134, 37% from 3. He was 63-82, 77% at the free throw line. That adds up to 292 points. Burton had 92 rebounds, 70 assists, 62 steals and 4 blocks. The 62 steals is the third highest total in UC history. His stat line came out to 9.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.19 assists and 1.9 steals. That’s a pretty damn good freshman season stat line. The only available box score from that season is the NCAA tournament game aagainst Wisconsin. Burton had 3 points on 3 free throws. He missed all 5 of his shots.
Burton’s role would expand in his sophomore year. If you had lights around him, you had to be very careful because he would shoot them out. Burton made nearly 45% of his field goals that season. Keep in mind that he was a guard. Burton was 134-299, 44.8%. He hit 74-192, 38.5% from 3. He took nearly 200 threes and was second on the team in 3s attempted by 47. He made 74. The leader that season made 127. Burton was money from the foul line. He hit 61-72, 85%. He scored 403 points. That was the 4th most on the squad. Burton had a career high 100 rebounds. He had 67 assists. Darnell added 43 steals and a career high 5 blocks. His stat line read 11.9 points, 2.94 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.26 steals.
The Bearcats were in the NCAA tournament that season. That’s not a surprise because they made a lot of NCAA tournaments in the 90s. Burton played a big part in the two games of the 1995 tournament. In the opener against Temple, Burton paced the Bearcat bench was 16 points on 5-8 shooting. He made 2 free throws to get to a total of 16 points. He had 4 assists. He was the second leading scorer in that game. He hit a 3, one of 12 UC threes, that put the win on ice. The following game against UConn saw Burton have a great stat line. He hit 7 of 13 shots for 21 points. He was 7-11 from 3. Seven of eleven. Unfortunately, 3 of those came in the final minute of the game when UC was going to lose. They lost 96-91 to that UConn squad of Ray Allen and Donny Marshall.
The 1995-96 season did not get off to a great start for Darnell Burton. In April of 95, he was suspended for the season for failing a drug test. However later that year, the UC board changed the rule on drug tests. Burton failed his first one. That rule was changed to where if you failed your first one, you missed 10% of the season. Well, Burton missed 10% of the season and played in the final 31 games of the year. Many people look at that as a shady occurrence. It was very shady. It worked out well for the basketball team though.
Like most of the other years, this season is hard to find game by game stats for. That’s a shame too, because Darnell Burton had his best scoring season, on average, in the 96 season. This was the year that Burton drilled the 3 point shot at the buzzer to beat Tulane. A shot I replicated at one my grade school basketball game the next day. Burton also helped ice a win against Memphis by hitting a go ahead 3 and making the money free throws. Darnell hit a career high 149 shots. He was 149-336, 44.3% from the field. He hit 89-215 from 3, 41.4%. That’s incredible. He was a very poor, for him, 47-70, 67% at the foul line. Burton went over the 1,000 point barrier in this season. He scored 434 points. Burton pulled in 81 rebounds, dished out 78 assists and had 42 steals. His stat line read 14 points, 2.6 rebounds. 2.5 assists, 1.35 steals. Burton was the UC 6th man. Not only that, Conference USA named him the first ever 6th man of the year.
We do have the NCAA tournament box scores for this season. And there were 4 of them because that team was pretty good. UC was the 2 seed. Burton was not great, hell, neither was the team in the opening round win over UNC Greensboro. Burton scored 10 points on 3-8 shooting. UC won 66-61. Burton hit a 3 that capped an 8-0 run to effective ice the game, but not really ice it because Greensboro came back hard. The next game was better. UC matched up with Temple again. It seemed like UC and Temple played 100000000 times back then. Burton and mainly Damon Flint, shot Temple out of house and home in a 78-65 win. Burton had 18 points on 5-13 shooting. He hit 3 free throws. Burton also pulled in 6 rebounds to help push UC to the Sweet 16. Against Georgia Tech, Burton hit 5-7 for 12 points as the Bearcats blew past the Yellow Jackets. That set up an Elite 8 game against Mississippi State. Burton shot the ball horribly. He scored 17 points. But he took 20 shots. He only made 6. Burton took 16 threes in that game, which is the 3rd highest total in UC history. He didn’t make many. I’m guessing he only made 5. UC lost by 10.
The Bearcats were one of the national title favorites in the 96-97 season. Darnell showed why in the opener. He scored 19 on 6-9, 5-7 from 3, with 4 boards in a win over WCU. The Bearcats were stunned by Xavier the following game. Burton scored 9. He, and the team, bounced back. Burton scored 17 on 6-9, 5-7 from 3 again, with 5 assists. The Bearcats lost to Kansas in their next game, which coincided with a Burton slump. He was 2-17, 2-11 from 3, against the Jayhawks. He was 2-9, all 3s, in the follow up win against Eastern Michigan. He had 11 assists and 7 rebounds in that game. Burton hit 2 of 3 from deep the following game, but was 4-15, 1-9 from 3, to follow. The Bearcats needed a big night from someone to beat Nebraska. Burton answered the bell. He shook the slump by hitting 8-14, 6-11 from 3, for 24 points. He had 3 steals in the UC win. Burton hit 4 threes and had 7 rebounds to close the non-conference season.
Burton started off conference play shaky. He was 3-10, 2-9 from 3, but 6-6 at the line for 14 points in a win over St Louis. Burton had 10-6-4 in a win over UAB. He dropped 10 again in a non-conference win over Miami, but scored 9 on 3-11 against Temple. Burton scored 13 on 5-9 shooting, with 4 assists and 3 steals against Arkansas. He shot poorly back in C-USA play, 4-12, 11 points against Charlotte. He responded well as UC went out of conference again to play USC. He hit 8 of 13 from the field, 6 of 9 from 3 and 9 of 10 from the free throw line, for a career high 31 points. Burton hit 3-9, 13 points, the next game, a loss to Louisville. Burton dropped 5 threes on DePaul for 15 points, and dished out 3 assists in a win. He was 3-9 from the field again, but he had 5 rebounds to go with 10 points in a 1 point win over Tulane. UC trounced Marquette behind 13-4-5 assists from Burton. He hit 5 threes for a large part of his 19 points in a late season battle at Washington. Burton scored 21 on 7-17 against St Louis in a UC win. He had a monster game against South Carolina, 30 points on 11-18, 5-11 from 3, 3-4 FTs, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, but UC lost by 14. Burton didn’t shoot well against Houston, he didn’t have to, it was Houston, but he had 9 points, 7 assists and 5 steals. He scored 12 with 4 assists against USF. Burton had 16-4-3-3 against DePaul on 6-13 shooting. He took 19 shots for 15 points in a win over Southern Miss. UC swept Marquette that regular season. Burton didn’t shoot well in the rematch, 3-9, but hit 7 of 8 from the foul line for a 15 point effort. He had 5 assists as well. He had 15 the next game, but on 4-15 in a loss to Memphis.
Darnell Burton had 3 games all season long where he didn’t make a 3. 2 of them came in the Conference USA tournament. He took only 1 against St Louis, UC won 71-43 so he didn’t have to take many, but he scored 10 points in 19 minutes. Burton was just 1-9, 0-4, in a revenge loss to Marquette.
The NCAA tournament brought more hot shooting from number 33. He crushed Butler for 19 points. He hit 6 of 12 from the field. He was 5 of 9 from 3. Burton added 3 assists. Burton had 10 points on 3-7, 3-5 from 3, against Iowa State. He pulled in 4 rebounds. Most notable is his 1 turnover. That came after his 4th rebound. Kelvin Cato fouled out 30 seconds previous on a clean block. UC went up 1. Iowa State missed a shot. Burton pulled in the board. He was tackled under the basket. The official, the still horrible John Cahill, called him for a travel. It was bullshit. You know Iowa State took the lead and UC lost.
Burton was the second leading scorer for the Bearcats a second straight season. He was 148-363, 41% from the field. He hit 94 threes in 236 attempts, 40%. The 94 threes was 3rd all time in makes. The attempts were 5th. Burton hit 65-84, 77% at the free throw line. That added up to 455 points. Burton had a career best 101 assists, pulled in 98 rebounds and had 37 steals. His stat line was 13.8, 3.06 assists, 3 rebounds, 1.12 steals a game. Burton was a 3rd team All-Conference USA selection. He was once again selected as the C-USA 6th man of the year.
Burton scored 1,584 points his UC career. He left 10th in points. His career averages were 12.2 points, 2.84 rebounds, 2.43 assists, and 1.42 steals a game.
Why He Made the List
Darnell Burton was a great player. He wasn’t a great player just because of his shooting. He was a dogged defender. He had a great knack for steals. He rebounded very well for a guard. He improved his passing the more he played. Darnell Burton worked hard and played hard. He was a great player to watch on some very good, but kind of disappoiting teams. Of course, the shooting is what we all remember. I tried to shoot like Darnell Burton, and I’m sure you did too.
What He’s Doing Now
Really wish I read this part before I made the list. Darnell Burton was arrested for drug trafficking. He was sentenced to 5 years. He’s probably still serving now. He could be out, I suppose. He was selling pot, I think, and he did it within 1,000 yards of a school. That’s not good. The point of this is to remember great players and have good memories about them. Not remember great players and leave on a sad note. Oh well, can’t win ’em all.
Photos via Enquirer and bottom photo via bleacher report