Northwestern is the youngest school in the Big Ten, and it’s not even close. It has fewer than 9,000 undergraduates (Nebraska is the second youngest with just over 20,000 undergraduates) and is also the only private school in the conference. When people look to the Northwest from outside, they are likely to see a mid-sized academic school in the Midwest where sports—albeit Big Ten sports—are not a priority. However, those who follow Northwestern University with fondness know this is not the case, especially given the school’s women’s programs.
With basketball being one of the few women’s sports to have a professional league, Northwestern women’s hoops have enjoyed a sort of next-level success over the past decade little-to-be before the arrival of coach Joe McKeown in 2008. Veronica Burton and Nia Coffey do their best. Impact in the WNBA, and that happens after they storm college by storm.
Burton, one of the college’s top defensive players, was named seventh in the 2022 WNBA Draft by the Dallas Wings. Her defensive play at Northwestern has been exceptionally credited. Backcourt Burglar won the WBCA (Women’s Basketball Coaches Association) Defensive Player of the Year during the 2021-2022 season, showing how coaches have recognized her talent at the national level. She led the nation in steals per game (4.03) and was the second person ever to win the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year three times, only after Penn State’s Tanisha Wright.
This was only the beginning of her homage. Besides the aforementioned accolades from both the conference and the WBCA, Burton has received numerous first-team All-Big Ten awards and was a finalist for the Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year, Nancy Lieberman Award (National Goalkeeper), and Dawn Staley Award (Guardian of the State Supreme). She was also the first Wildcat ever to be assigned to an AP All-America team.
All awards and nominations aside, Burton was very important to the women’s basketball program and Northwestern University as a whole. She was one of the best players on the show ever and made the Northwestern community know her name from day one.
In the midst of her rookie campaign for the wings, Burton has almost never seen the time she’s seen in Evanston yet – averaging just 12 minutes per game – but it’s clear the wings have long-term plans for her to fit in on the next leg to Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey.
Northwestern fans hope Burton will be an influential WNBA player for years to come, and they don’t have to look far to see the comparison. Not only has Nia Coffey been a star in purple and white, she’s also setting up numbers in the WNBA.
Kofi graduated from NU in 2017 as the highest-grossing WNBA pick ever to break out of Evanston in fifth overall. Her 2021 season was her best so far, averaging 8.3 points per game with the Los Angeles Sparks, and in the 2022 season with the Atlanta Dream, she led the team in the rebound. One of her most recent news appearances was a double against the Indiana Fever, where she scored 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Although Kofi has played for four teams in her six seasons at the professional level, she shows that no matter the scene, she is an energetic player. Over the past two years, she has achieved career highs in points (8.3), rebounds (5.5), and assists (0.9) in every game, along with matches started (17).
Burton and Covey both came to the Northwest without spotlighting them. But both became superstars in purple and were able to gain national attention by virtue of their own abilities, propelling them to the WNBA.
There are only 144 spots on the WNBA roster, and the fact that the McKeown alumni hold two shows defies all odds – they’ve gained visibility at a small school not known for their basketball prowess in the past and locked themselves into one of the few professional ladies. leagues in the country.
Burton and Coffey are now on the big screens, and if Northwestern fans want to see some purple in the pros, the WNBA is the place to be.