This offseason, Jeff Capel brought in a talented group of transfers who are all ready to make an impact this season.
While all have had success at their respective schools, one, Jamarius Burton, has shown he can compete at the highest level of college basketball.
Prior to transferring to Pitt in late April, Burton had made previous stops at Wichita State as well as Texas Tech: two programs who have had immense success in the last decade competing in the NCAA tournament year in and year out.
Now, playing as a senior at Pitt, he has the chance to be a part of a different type of program. One that is building.
“Each program has a different culture,” Burton said after practice on Thursday. “At [Texas] Tech, we had the understanding that we were trying to win it all. Here, we are trying to build. So that is two different cultures. But, to me, it doesn’t matter. Each day we are trying to get better, each day we are trying to win the day to ultimately get the results that we want. If we get better every single day, it will show on the court. And then ultimately, we will get the goals that we said we want to get.”
In his freshman year at Wichita State, Burton played a solid role for the Shockers, showing a lot of promise for the rest of his college career. He averaged six points, 3.4 assists, and 3.4 rebounds in 28 starts. The next year? Burton made a huge jump in his scoring efforts, bumping his average up to 10.3 points, 3.4 assists, and 3.5 rebounds. Then, after playing in a very deep guard room at Texas Tech, his numbers took a dive, as he averaged just around four points and one assist per game.
Now, heading into his fourth season of college hoops, Burton is ready to put it all together.
“Each stop is different,” Burton said. “When I was at Wichita, I was a freshman, I was a sophomore, I was young. I was learning how to play. I was just learning how to defend, and just how to win games. Then at Tech, I mean, the preparation, the work that goes into it, I thought I was working at Wichita, then I got to Tech and I see the work ethic. That pushed me even harder. So everything that I have gained through my previous stops is helping me here because now I am able to take what I have learned and implement it.”
Coming into a new program in the summer, Burton was not familiar with any of the players on the Pitt team. However, it did not take him very long to get to know another guard who had previously transferred into Pitt: Ithiel Horton.
“Me and IT, we read some of the same books,” he said. “We work out together. We try to do that intentionally, just so that we can build that chemistry. I look forward to getting out on the court with him and others.”
Burton went on to say that he and Horton have read “Max Out Your Life” by Ed Mylett, as well as the Kobe Bryant book, titled “Mamba Mentality.” The two have spent time learning from Associate Head Coach Tim O’Toole, as well as also deleting all forms of social media more than two months ago.
“It’s been liberating,” Horton said about deleting Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. “I thank Jamarius for that. Jamarius has been a big influence for me. He told me ever since he’s been off of social media, he’s had a lot of time on his hands. I am starting to notice, I have a lot of time on my hands, I’ve got to fill that time.”
With Horton being from New Jersey and Burton being from North Carolina, the two had never been on the same team prior to this year. They play a similar position, but Burton is more of a point guard with a little two-guard in him, while Horton stays around the wing, playing the two and the three.
“I think the desire to win,” Burton said when asked what the two share in common. “We both know that in order for us to reach our personal goals, we’ve got to win. The best way to win is if everybody is on the same page. So, really, just trying to build a chemistry. Understand where he likes the ball, where I like the ball, how we can play off each other, and vice versa for everybody else.”
Deleting those apps was just one small step in Horton’s search for his identity this offseason. After a year in which he averaged 8.9 points and shot 37% from three, one would think Horton would want to just sharpen up his already-strong shooting ability. However, he has taken on a whole new task in becoming a better player.
“For me, I really wanted to focus on my mind more than anything else,” he said. “Obviously I wanted to keep improving my jump shot, keep improving my bounce off the dribble, keep improving my overall IQ of the game, but I think that the mental side of the game was where I had a lot of trouble last year. Getting with T.O. [Tim O’Toole], reading a lot of books with T.O,. and doing some questionnaires about me, about myself, I think that’s really helped me. I am able to control my emotions a lot better than I did last year. I got kicked out of the Notre Dame game last year, you know? That was just a sign of immaturity in my mind. I think that is what I really wanted to focus on in the offseason, was developing my mental.”
After going from number three to number zero last season, Horton has once again changed his jersey number heading into the year. This time around, he chose 12, which is the number of his hometown’s highway exit in New Jersey.
“I was number three when I first got here,” he said. “Zero last year, and now number 12. Number 12, I am back to being who I am. Number 12 was my number in high school, when I won the championship. Number 12 was my number at Delaware, had a great year. So number 12 is just bringing back my identity, who I am. And that number is just very significant to me.”
To view more from Horton and Burton, check out the links below for their full press conferences.