One of the area's top point guards for the last couple of years, Dyzhanay Burton hopes to lead the City girls basketball team to a state championship in her senior year.
A 5 foot 4 All-Metro first-team selection last winter, Burton scored her 1,000th career point last week and averages 12 points, 4.2 assists and 3.5 steals for the No. 9 Knights (6-0).
Burton began her competitive basketball career on the boys team at William Paca Elementary School. She spent her entire Amateur Athletic Union career with the Team Maryland Lady Shooting Stars, coached by Tim Burroughs, an assistant coach at City.
In November, Burton signed to play for the College of Charleston, S.C., where she plans to study to become an athletic trainer. A student in City’s International Baccalaureate program, she has a 3.1 unweighted GPA.
Your first name is so unusual. Is there a story behind it?
A neighbor named me. She was a teenager from the neighborhood and she helped my mom deliver me, because I was delivered in a house not in a hospital, and my mom was in the house by herself when she gave birth to me. It was just a name that [the neighbor] liked. I don’t think that she knew it had a meaning over in Africa. I think she just made it up, but I looked it up and she named me after an African princess.
How did you get started playing basketball?
My neighbor had a goal that you set up for yourself that you put water in the base of it. Everyday I used to go to there just to play basketball. Then one year, I asked for a basketball goal, the same kind, for Christmas and my mom got me one. Ever since then, I’ve been living in the backyard.
When did you play for your first AAU team?
I was eight years old. I started playing basketball with boys when I was seven. That was in a house league at Chick Webb Recreation Center and the director, James Wise, he’s a very close friend of the family and he figured that if I was ever going to have a good basketball career, I had to be on a girls team. I couldn’t just play with the boys all my life, so he recommended me to Coach Tim.
Did playing with boys make you a better player?
Yes. I liked playing with boys more than I liked playing with girls when I was younger, because it was just basketball. Everyone had fun. When you play with girls, it’s a little more complicated than you think, because I think girls are way more competitive than boys. Playing with boys definitely made me more aggressive and playing with girls, it made me learn the game. You can’t just pass the ball to your center and he just goes straight down the middle because he’s stronger than most people. With girls, you actually have to position them and run plays to get a bucket most of the time.
How did you develop into a floor leader?
I think that was a natural attribute that I had to contribute to my game. I’ve always played point guard from the time I played with the boys and when I transitioned to playing with girls, so I was always the one at the top of the key with the ball, positioning people and stuff like that.
Now that you’re a senior, do feel you have to be more of a vocal leader?
In my previous years, I always thought that I had a fundamental role within the offense and the defense, but there were upperclassmen on the team and they were more vocal than I was, so I just did most of my talking on the court and not in the locker room when they would speak. Now, I definitely think it’s my responsibility to be more vocal because I’m the upperclassman and everyone’s looking at me and the other seniors to guide the younger players.
Why did you choose the College of Charleston?
On my unofficial visit, it was like love at first sight. It wasn’t what I expected. South Carolina, I thought it was just going to be like one gas station that everyone uses in the middle of nowhere (laughs) and you have to drive 15 miles out to get to a mall, but it’s definitely not like that. The College of Charleston is right in the middle of downtown and it’s in the mix of everything. And it’s nice weather.
Why did you come to City?
My top two were City and Poly, kind of ironic. Me, Teira [Pendleton] and Jasmine [Smith] talked about that a lot. We dreamed of playing together in high school. We were on AAU teams thinking about playing together, but Coach Tim Burroughs ... recommended City to me and my friends recommended Poly to me, so I was stuck in the middle. I did open houses at both schools and I just really liked the atmosphere here. Everybody seemed like one big family, and I felt like I would fit in as soon as I would get here. In combination with that, I thought the academics would benefit me in a good way because they have the International Baccalaureate program here ... I’ve been in it for two years. In my ninth grade year, I was thinking about getting this program so if I didn’t get an athletic scholarship I would be at the top of the chain to get an academic scholarship and it would make me stand out to colleges.
What’s the one moment of your sporting life would you most like to live over
When I first started out basketball, because it felt like I was in one big family at Chick Webb Recreation Center and everybody knew me. Everybody knew everyone and I liked feeling comfortable around everyone. It let me relax and just play basketball. When I came here (City) to the open house, I felt the same feeling so I was like, “This is where I want to be for the next four years” and that’s the same feeling that I got when I chose Charleston, when I went on unofficial visit and on my official visit. Any time I get that feeling, that’s where I want to be.
What is your favorite Christmas tradition?
I just like spending time with my family when everybody finally gets up. I have a lot of siblings (five) and we have great Christmases. Everybody wakes up at different times and it’s like you wait on the last person to finally get downstairs and everybody’s just laughing and talking and you have the feeling of Christmas, that camaraderie. I love it so much, just being around family.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun