The Whole Enchilada
Steve Burtt Jr understands the intricacies of the game.
by Jeremy Bauman / @JBauman13
I need to start off by apologizing to Steve Burtt Jr, who did everything he could to make this story happen in April while he was overseas. In the midst of graduating from college, internships, and the (ongoing) job search, I put his responses deep on the back burner and unfortunately forgot about them somewhere along the way. Thank you, Steve, for the incredible insight that came through in your interview.
Now onto the fun part—Steve Burtt Jr graduated from Iona College in 2007 with his degree in Marketing and a minor in causing headaches for opponents all over the court. A 6-1 lefty scoring guard, Burtt Jr mixed and matched quick explosive combination moves with comfort, a steady jumpshot from the midrange and three-point line, while also showing an increased ability to get his teammates involved as he transitioned from a freshman to a senior. The crafty scoring guard was the leader of an Iona Gaels team that made the NCAA Tournament during his senior year, when Burtt Jr happened to be averaging a cool 25.2 per contest.
Call it a twist of fate, but with the ongoing lockout and (possible) player migration across the Atlantic, Burtt Jr reflects an excellent narrative, which serves as an explicit reminder that life overseas is not the same game—neither on nor off the court—in Europe, Asia, Australia or South America… because its just not.
SLAM: Your father, Steve Burtt Sr, was such a good player, and I assume he was an excellent role model as well. Talk about some of the ways he impacted you—both on and off the court. How did having a father who KNEW what it took to play in the League help you to become a successful player and person?
Steve Burtt Jr: My father had a great impact on me growing up, both on and of the court. From being the best ball player I could be to being the best man I could, I couldn’t have asked for a better role model, or blueprint to follow. From the simplest things like doing chores to make me responsible, to not letting me go out to parties and making me work on my game when others weren’t, or taking me to live in Italy with him while he played, to show me there was another world out there than the streets, everything my father did had a lesson in it.
Having a father who played ball and was successful at it was definitely an upper hand in learning the game and in learning things outside of the game as well. For instance the business side of things—my father played both in the NBA and overseas—which are two very different worlds business-wise, socially, and culturally. Having his knowledge prior to going in definitely saved a lot of potential headaches being a 22-year-old in a new world.
His knowledge also helped me in working on game. Having someone who knows you, and your game better than anyone else, and can analyze it for you before any coach can, it definitely can be a bit of an edge. And he was always critiquing, always pushing; I admit it was hard going through it, because he would never let me be satisfied with where I was at, but looking back I wouldn’t have had it any other way because the values he instilled in me, as far as my drive for excellence in all I do, are priceless.
SLAM: What are some of your fondest basketball memories from when you were in middle school and high school? What were those times like for you—I.e. recruiting, class, living in NYC, playing streetball—and how did they help turn you into the person you are today?
SB: Well of course the winning [laughs]! Being on one of the best school-teams in NY in both junior high school (Mt. Carmel Holy Rosary) and high school (Rice High School), I did a lot of winning. But my fondest memories were winning state titles—especially my state championship in high school. I only played two years of varsity, and I lost in the 1st round of the playoffs my junior year. From the workouts with my dad in the summer, to working out with my friends/teammates in preseason, it was an unforgettable experience because we were all on the same page, all had the same goal, the same drive and fire about us. We took no prisoners and accomplished the goals we set out to.
Those were probably some of the best years in my life. To play ball where I lived, around my friends and family. Having my best friends as classmates and teammates. It was a great experience. Being around people who care about you beyond basketball is great because win or lose, you’re surrounded by people care about you.
The summers were the best since we all stayed together and played together, so that kinda gave us an edge during the season too! Streetball in NYC with your best friends as your teammates? It was great! We were playing way above our age bracket, and winning too. Those were definitely the beginning times of some of us building the names we did for ourselves throughout the years.
SLAM: You had a ton of success when you played for Coach Jeff Ruland at Iona College and also had teammates who I know you were very close with and won a lot of games with. What was college like for you on and off the court and how did your game mature in your four years at school?
SB: College was great! I doubt there are a lot of kids who would say college was a drag [laughs]! It was good for me: I got a great education there, and was fortunate enough to have success there—both team-wise and personally. It was close to home (about 25 minutes outside of Harlem, NY) so my friends and family could see me play. The small campus provided a very social atmosphere there, so I knew everybody and everybody knew me. It wasn’t like being away at all. A second home, if you will.
SLAM: Your numbers got better every single year at school, so how, exactly, did your development take shape?
SB: Well for one, as I said before, having a father who played the game, knew the game, and loved the game, definitely played an intricate part in my development as a player every year, even every game! I watched films with the team, and with my dad, just pinpointed the spots in my game where I had to improve. Its one thing to work with your coaches at school, and they were great. But they have 14 other guys to worry out and improve, so to be able to have that 1-on-1 with my father, really helped me to truly see the things I had to get better at.
Aside from that I was just never satisfied. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I was never one to rest on my laurels: I wanted to be the best at everything I did no matter if it was on the play ground, college, NBA or Europe. So I was always willing to work, and work, and then work some more.