Katie Burton spent the first three seasons of her college basketball career on the perimeter, playing guard for the Wisconsin-Whitewater women’s team.
This winter, the Crystal Lake South graduate is working closer to the basket, and she has the scars to show for it.
“There are a lot more bumps and bruises down low,” the 5-foot-10 Burton said. “We’re a little bit smaller of a team this year, so I had to step into the [power forward] position. You don’t have to be the best player to box out and just be scrappy. It’s pretty fun.”
Burton’s scrappiness has led to career highs in scoring (9 points a game) and rebounding (3.6) for the Warhawks (12-3), who lead the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with a 6-0 record.
Burton, who has started every game this season and is a team captain for Whitewater, has drawn praise for her selfless play and attitude.
“She is very unselfish,” Warhawks coach Keri Carollo said. “She doesn’t care how many points or rebounds she gets. She’s more concerned with what she can do to help the team win.”
Along with moving her game down low, Burton has contributed by hitting a career-best 41.3 percent of her 3-point shots. Her 20 3-pointers rank second on the team.
“That’s something that I really wanted to improve on, so I worked on my shot a lot in the offseason,” she said.
Burton’s shooting prowess also has pulled taller defenders away from the post.
“She’s done a really nice job,” Carollo said. “[She has improved] in all facets of the game, especially her defensive ability.”
Whitewater is coming off a season in which it played in the NCAA Division III national championship game and won the second-most games in school history (26-7).
“This is a different year and a different team,” Burton said. “It’s just not clicking the way we know it can.”
Carollo praised Burton and her teammates for their desire to improve despite their perfect WIAC start and No. 17 national ranking in this week’s D3Hoops.com poll.
“We are really working hard to get better every day,” Carollo said. “We aren’t clicking on all cylinders yet, but hopefully we will be soon.”
Despite not being at the top of their game yet, Whitewater has put together an impressive start to the WIAC season.
On Wednesday, the Warhawks won at UW-Platteville, 72-60, earning their 14th consecutive win against the Pioneers. On Jan. 8, Whitewater handed UW-Oshkosh its first loss of the season with a 72-66 decision in which Burton (13 points) was one of four double-digit scorers.
“I wouldn’t want to be out there with any other group of girls,” Burton said.
Freeman’s fast start: Cary-Grove grad Josh Freeman won the shot put in the season-opening Saluki Open last weekend in Carbondale.
Freeman, a sophomore at Southern Illinois, won the event by almost 5 feet. His winning throw of 59 feet, 8¼ inches ranks as the 13th-best shot put throw nationally this season.
On the first day of the two-day meet, Freeman placed third in the weight throw. His toss of 59-4¼ was a career-best performance.
Super sprinter: Samantha Nirva, a junior sprinter at D-II St. Joseph’s College in Indiana, was named the Great Lakes Valley Conference Women’s Indoor Track and Field Athlete of the Week on Wednesday.
In the season-opening Bob Eubanks Invitational at Grand Valley State, Nirva placed fifth in the 60-meter hurdles in 8.99 seconds.
The Prairie Ridge grad posted a time of 8.97 in the prelims.
The award was the first of Nirva’s career and the first weekly honor in school history for a Saint Joseph’s indoor track athlete.
Top Vikings: Cary-Grove grad Eric Chandler, Marian Central’s Will Hass and Huntley’s Josh Symbal were named football award winners this month for D-III Augustana College.
Chandler, a senior running back, was named the team’s Most Valuable Player. He led the Vikings with 757 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Hass, a senior defensive tackle, won the program’s Jerry Frick Award, named for Augustana’s late team manager. The honor symbolizes the concept of being a team player. Hass was honored for persevering through injuries this season to play in five games.
Symbal, a sophomore linebacker, was named the Scout Team Defensive MVP for the Vikings (5-5).
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him om Twitter @BarryOnCampus.