Tag Archives: Joe Burton

Where They Affect the Game: Roberto Nelson and CJ Wilcox

Between Roberto Nelson and CJ Wilcox, these tremendous seniors have weathered the worst Pac-12 storm we’ve ever seen. And that’s on a coast that rarely experiences bad storms. Across their four years, they’ve been a part of some awful conference play. Yet here they are now, on the cusp of being two of the best players in a conference possibly sending 7 teams into the Dance.

And do you realize that neither of these two would make a normal first team all-conference team? Normal would suggest a five-man squad which the Pac-12 doesn’t do so they’ve got a Pac-12 chance at first team. But these guys aren’t even top-5! Sure, neither plays on a particularly dangerous squad so they fly under the radar, ignored pretty regularly despite terrific individual numbers. I get that wins are the most important stat; but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate an individual’s efforts to try to win.

I wanted to tell each of their stories, how they affect the game. But as I worked harder into their numbers, deeper into their stories, I found some interesting parallels. And some fascinating divergence.

I’d like to begin with the parallels:

CJ Wilcox 6.2 13.5 0.46 0.401 0.854 3.6 2.6 18.2
Roberto Nelson 6.1 13.7 0.449 0.402 0.843 3.5 3.7 20.6

I was really excited to see these near identical outputs. The two best players on these two average teams. I mean, even their teams are nearly identical. Washington is 16-13, 8-8 and Oregon State is 15-13, 7-9. I even took a gander at their win shares: Nelson 3.7, Wilcox 4.0. Right on down the line they seem to be pretty similar. Wilcox is 6’5″ 195lbs. Nelson is 6’4″ 198lbs. Same size, same numbers, the big picture suggests they affect the game similarly.

But going a level deeper, we find our divergence.

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 10.03.50 PM


Simply put, Roberto gets to the rim and CJ prefers not to. If you were paying attention to the chart above, you’d have noticed they were making nearly the identical number of FGs per game (6.2 Wilcox, 6.1 Nelson). Yet, per our graph above, Nelson is taking 18.5% more two-point shots than Wilcox. How are they putting up the same number of points. If you guessed free throws, you were right. Nelson’s free throw rate is double that of Wilcox’s (56.7% vs 26.3%). And so it makes sense.

Like our Delon Wright study, Nelson is the slashing creating type. He differs from Wright in that he connects on 40% of his threes (Wright’s an atrocious 25.6%). But ultimately the two of them, as noted, are slashing and creating. Nelson’s possessions result in a play at the rim more than 40% of the time. It’s inside the paint that Nelson fights to 20.6ppg with just a sparse percentage of his shots being assisted. A little more than a third of Nelson’s shots at the rim are assisted. With Wright as our barometer, Nelson gets a slight more help from his friends. Wright has 29.4% of his rim shots assisted. For continuity’s sake, Wilcox is assisted on 45.3% of his rim buckets. These numbers suggest some self-reliance on the part of Nelson and Wright, the ability to create for oneself.

Not CJ’s strong suit. Wilcox is a phenomenal three point shooter. We noted he makes 40% of his shots from there and takes half his shots from there. That’s a productive output and why he’s 10th in the conference in eFG%. Conversely, Nelson leads the conference in usage (32% good for 21st most in the nation).

Nelson needs the ball in his hands to affect the game. Now obviously so too does CJ, but he ranks just 19th in the conference in usage, the lowest such percentage amongst the conference’s top-10 leading scorers (Wilcox is fifth). He’s a beautifully pure shooter. I’m inclined to note how often CJ’s threes are assisted but it’s actually below the D-1 average (75.3% vs 84.9%). Not exactly fulfilling our CJ-is-team-reliant narritive. But as such a great shooter (career 39.2% shooter as compared to JJ Redick’s 40.2% or Salim Stoudamire’s 45.8% – wait, Salim was that much better than JJ, sigh…)  it’s understandable that Wilcox is going to get the green light a little more often than not. Particularly as a senior with two underclassmen guards feeding him. Year-over-year, Wilcox’s percentage of assisted threes has decreased (I see you Abdul).

Ultimately, what each of these players is accomplishing is individually impressive and unique. They’ve arrived at similar destinations taking very different paths.

Neither of these seniors will win the Player of the Year award. But each has been a terrific Pac-12 basketball player, contributing to the resurgence of a conference once mired below mediocrity. It was the laughing stock of college basketball.

Today, while neither of their teams has seen great success, they’ve developed into two of the most dynamic and unique players in the conference. A part of arguably the best guard corps in the nation.

And they are seniors at the ends of their respective paths. I enjoyed watching them and I imagine you did, too. They did great. Good luck.

Getting to know Oregon State: Beer league defense

I’m not about to sing the glowing prospects of a team who’s best player has been accused – by the coach – of being a Beer Leaguer – and who’s other top-two players were indefinitely suspended. No that doesn’t quite equate to a shining review and, quite frankly, the future is only about a mild squint’s bright in Corvallis. Craig Robinson is once again telling us his team is dedicated to the defensive end (more later).

Why I love them: And who doesn’t like bigs? I’m 6’5″ and always get picked up at open gym. In the Pac-12, 6’5″ isn’t going to get you much beyond a shooting guard and in my case an assistant associate to the video coordinator’s assistant. But enough about me. OSU touts Eric Moreland (9/11), Devon Collier (13/6), and Angus Brandt (12/9 before busting his knee). Each is greater than 6’8″ and is going to be further supplemented by the playing time of 6’9″ Oakhill Academy product, Daniel Gomis. This kid is 2010 and has been at OSU since that time with nary a minute played. Additionally, you have to like Roberto Nelson (guard) because he looks like Drake.

Why I hate them: Last season the Beavers committed to man-to-man defense and promptly posted a 101.1 AdjD – good for 167th in the nation and last in the conference. They also placed last in the Pac and so it makes good sense that Robinson sees a need for further commitment to that side of the ball. Moreland – who is suspended for 14 games of the season and a further reason to dislike their prospects – was one of their better defensive players; snatching boards at the fifth highest rate in America (27.5%) and blocking 2.5 shots per contest. Robinson called him irreplaceable despite needing to replace him. At pachoops, we call that an “unenviable, self-inflicted predicament.” Of a similar self-inflicted vein is  Beer League basketball players. Robinson previously felt his senior leader, Nelson, was in All-Beer League shape. He’s since sung Nelson’s praises for getting into shape, but earning that hoppy honor is an inauspicious start to a defensively oriented season.

Stat you should know:


Number of .500 or better seasons OSU has posted since 1992. Other popular things from 1992 include: The Dream Team, Aladdin, and the birth of Miley Ray Cyrus. It hasn’t been the greatest 2+ decades in Corvallis  basketball.


“Don’t pooh‑pooh the All‑Beer League.  I’ve been on some beer league teams, and we have beaten a lot of guys.” – Craig Robinson

Outlook: I won’t soon pooh-pooh the beer league – I had my first softball game on Monday in which I had to pitch after blowing up my ankle in beer league hoops – but I am going to pooh-pooh OSU’s defense. I can’t quite buy this team as contending for much better than 8th in the conference. Moreland’s absence isn’t helping things and neither is the fact that this is the strongest Pac-12 conference since Robinson joined the league.

Waxing Seniority: They’re Gone

I’ll miss them. You will, too. And with the wrap of this season, reality has sunk in that some of our favorites will move on. Cue the Vitamin C, it’s graduation time.

And this crop of seniors saw some stuff. They endured but did not define one of the worst stretches in Pac-12 hoops there’s ever been. By way of historical context I have none. But anecdotally can you tell me I’m wrong? These seniors saw the winner of their conference not play in the NCAA tournament. The Pac-12 was bad.

But they won’t be defined by this period of ineptitude. They’ll be defined by the fight we saw and the resilience we cheered. As a slew of fantastic writers boasted of their favorite seniors’ careers (all below), I was reminded that we’re not always fans for the wins and losses. We’re drawn to the human components of this game, the universal truths that we all struggle in an effort to succeed. Which is why it was so rewarding to see EJ Singler in his first Big Dance. And Solomon Hill lead down the home stretch. And see Brock Motum score 79 points in his final three games. And see the career transformation of Larry Drew II. And Joe Burton play the role of cultural ambassador.

Maybe they didn’t win any titles and reached just a single Elite 8 collectively, but they were the seniors of our teams and sometimes that’s about all we need to be a fan.

The 2012-13 Pac-12 Seniors – or at least those who were so kindly discussed by those who follow them closest for the Waxing Seniority series:

Waxing Seniority: Joe Burton

With the regular season now wrapped and the Pac-12’s seniors having played their final home games, we’re taking a tour across the conference and bidding this group of seniors farewell.

Connor Pelton is a writer and editor at Rush the Court. He’s a long time fan of the Beavers and the Pac-12.

Senior center Joe Burton has played his final home games in an Oregon State uniform. He will play in the Pac-12 Tournament this week, and barring an automatic bid to the NCAA’s, or the off chance the Beavers are invited to the CBI, one of the most creative and interesting players in Pac-12 history will hang it up.

Burton has never led the Beavers in points scored or rebounds grabbed. He wasn’t even talked about nationally until mid-way through his final season in Corvallis. He never played on a team seeded higher than sixth in the Pac-12 Tournament. His teams never made a postseason tournament greater than the CBI.

But boy was he fun to watch. He was Craig Robinson’s first signee, but was used in his first season as a man to spell a point guard or center that was in foul trouble. Everything changed his sophomore season, however. Starting the majority of the year, Burton brought a different style of play to the Beaver offense and changed the way they ran it.

Burton’s contributions can be broken down two-fold; with the ball at the top of the three-point line and with the ball in the paint. On the perimeter, Burton plays the role of a point-center. He gathers roughly half of his team-leading assists this way, throwing wicked one-handed, passes (view one of these dimes here at the 0:20 mark). And after a made basket by an opponent, it’s not a guard taking the ball out and inbounding it. It’s big Joe, and if you think he’s just going to shovel the ball off to Ahmad Starks or Challe Barton, you’re wrong. Burton loves the two-handed, 72-foot outlet pass, smiling while the ball flies over the nine heads on the floor and into Roberto Nelson’s hands right beneath the other basket. Once, he even tried an alley-oop by lying on his back at the half-court line while the shot clock was expiring, attempting to get the ball to Eric Moreland at the rim. It didn’t work, but the thought is what counts. He just plays with a different thought-process than everyone, some call it an old-school mentality, and it works.

That leads us to the second area of his game, the one that is most spectacular and will be missed by all that followed his career in Corvallis. As a defender converging to stop this 295 pound, light-on-his-feet center, you need to be aware that the ball could go in any direction, at any time. When he’s passing the ball, Burton is capable of putting it through not only his legs, but yours’ as well. Maybe he’ll attempt a one-handed, over the shoulder, no look to a streaking Eric Moreland. You never know where the ball is going, but you have to be on high alert.

And that’s when he surprises you the most. When it looks as if there’s no possible way he can dish the ball off or put the ball in the basket, Burton will go to one of three moves that you either haven’t seen before or haven’t seen done so successfully since the career of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The first is the self-named Native Tornado, which features a bit of a traditional step-through move, only going horizontally and underneath the basket. Typically resulting in a good reverse or off-the-glass bank shot, this is Burton’s best move. Sure, it may belong in a game of H-O-R-S-E (actually, all of these do), but it’s the surprise factor that makes it work.

The second most common Burton move is the fading away from the basket, sweeping hook shot. Once again, this is not an easy shot by any stretch of the imagination. But Burton makes it work, leaving defenders shaking their heads as the big fella runs down the floor smiling from ear-to-ear.

Finally, we get to the rarest of shots in Burton’s repertoire, the one-handed, over-the-head shot. Seen maybe once every four games, it catches you so off guard that you don’t even know what’s happened until the ball goes through the netting and the other team is off down the floor. I should probably just stop explaining and let the video speak for itself. Downright dirty.

You can’t have a piece honoring Burton without mentioning the strides he has made to bring athletics to the Native American community. He played a huge role in getting Nike’s N7 Initiative off the ground, and helped design Oregon State’s turquoise uniforms that were worn once or twice a season while he was in Corvallis. He is the first Native American scholarship player in the Pac-12 since the league expanded in 1978, and he is treated like a celebrity whenever he goes back to his reservation in Soboba, California.

We’ll miss you Joe.

Waxing Seniority: A Farewell Tour of Pac-12 Seniors

One of our favorite things about collegiate athletics is its fleeting immediacy. The players we cheer for, those who don our colors, are there for a predetermined and brief period. We enjoy their services for, at most, four seasons and then its on to their next venture. It’s quick, gone in what feels like a flash, and we’re then left with a new crop of talents to cheer, critique, and enjoy a new group.

But it’s this brevity that magnifies the relationship.

We know all too well of its finality that we’re further drawn to irrational levels of fandom. I love it. And now the seniors have now wrapped up their final home games. They will never play on their home court again. For this, I’m sad.

Because these are the guys we’ve followed since before they got to school and watched improve and watched succeed and watched fail and watched grow. They’ve embodied a lifecycle we appreciate and now is the time to usher them on and out.

For such, I’ve reached out to some of my favorite writers, bloggers, and fans in an effort to try and capture the feelings of this time of year. Both the bitter and the sweet.

So coming today and beyond, you will see the following seniors celebrated by those who’ve followed them close:

It’s a good crop we’re saying farewell to and a terrific group who have pieced together some remarkable, exciting, and fun careers.

Stay tuned.

Multiple Reasons for Optimism in Gill Coliseum

The First Program is in a critical year. CRob hasn’t filled lofty expectations but he has delivered the school’s first winning season since what feels like the Lincoln administration. Some good pieces there in Corvallis. Smile.

    1. Oh Come On – Half the questions asked of Craig Robinson at Media Day were surrounding last Tuesday (hint: election night). Well Barack Obama (aka Robinson’s brother-in-law) was re-elected President and that’s got to make this program happy.
    2. Hearts Out – It’s what Roberto Nelson did according to George Dohrmann in his book, Play Their Hearts Out, and he’ll need to continue to do so for the Beavers to have any success this season.
    3. Wee Man – Ahmad Starks ain’t big. He’s listed at 5’9” on the school’s website and if you’ve ever been a part of filling out an info sheet, you know that listed height and weight is inflated. Irrelevant. He can play. Coach Robinson says that he alone could replace Jared Cunningham’s 18ppg but they won’t necessarily need that of him. He’ll play a very sound point for OSU.
    4. Vazannion – Not sure who will be under center but, come on, you know you’re a little pumped for the Civil War.
    5. Timber – Robinson has called this his “best front court” since arriving in Corvallis. Let’s discuss: Devon Collier, Angus Brandt, Joe Burton, Daniel Jones, and a slew of sizable newbies. There’s experience and versatility there and my-oh-my does Collier have a chance to break out this year. DYK he quietly went for 14/6 last year? Solid.
    6. Can’t Get Enough – He’s gone and this was two years ago but it’s still dirty

What to Watch for in the Pac-12 Conference Season

Conference play is here and while there are many legitimate basketball related things to watch for – like games and such – here are some under-the-radar stories to keep an eye on. Enjoy.

Is Utah going to be biblically bad?
Sure, the eyeball test tells us that the Utes are bad. As do the RPI rankings, scoreboards, statistics, and probably Krystkowiak himself. But isn’t that the fun of it? While we all root of eternal greatness, why can’t we eagerly anticipate a defeated season – in fact the second since 2008 (Oregon State). The Utes could be biblically bad but unfortunately so too is the conference, lessening the odds of an oh-for-eighteener. But hey, like that little kid in Angels in the Outfield kept saying, “It could happen!”

Will Kevin O’Neill try to fight another booster?
With all eyes on Matt Barkley, Lane Kiffin, and the now uninhibited Trojan football program, will KO go buck wild and fight anyone he wants? Odds are against it but again, we’re talking about this guy. A good quote and a coach who can get a lot out of his players, he does tend to leave a trail of destruction in his path. I recommend not getting in his way but then again, he probably stands to lose a lot more than you.

Joe Burton – Josh Smith: The Big-off
Read the following in your best Michael Buffer voice: in the Los Angeles corner, standing six-feet, ten-inches tall, and a soft three hundred and ten pounds…JOSH SMITH. From the Corvalis corner, a six-feet, seven-inch two-hundred and eighty pound baby face, Joeeeeeeee Burton! These two, hefty as they may be, manage to toss around the weight for good. Smith is still looking to find some semblance of conditioning and when he does he’s capable of big things. Burton has been a serviceable center, capable of putting up formidable numbers while also playing a facilitators role in Craig Robinson’s Princeton offense (3.8 apg). These two will rumble off just once this season, January 19 in Corvalis.









Will Sean Miller clear whatever is in his throat?
If you’ve ever watched Miller patrol the sidelines, you know he’s a pretty fiery dude. That said, he also is constantly hacking and coughing away, an assumed attempt to clear his throat. With another edge-of-your-seat-this-ain’t-gonna-be-easy type season in Tucson, Miller no doubt needs all of his voice to convey his message to the youthful Wildcats. Perhaps try some lozenges, Coach?





Will Ken Bone finally be caught by the headless horseman?
Ichabod. Ken. Ken. Ichabod. Discuss.






Who will be the first to posterize someone?
The hoppy Nick Johnson?

The powerful Jared Cunningham?

The stretchy Andre Roberson?

The acrobatic Terrence Ross?

Or someone else?