Nearly 16 years and less than 30 miles separate what could be two of the most disappointing careers among Valparaiso men’s basketball players.
Joe Burton’s time with the Crusaders came to an end on Monday morning when the university released a statement saying the Oklahoma State transfer was no longer enrolled in the school. Burton, who failed to meet Valparaiso’s academic standards according to a previously released statement, was suspended from the program on Dec. 20 and missed five games before he officially left the school.
In a text message to the Times on Monday morning, Burton said he was preparing for the “next level.”
Burton becomes the first scholarship player to leave the program midseason since Tony Falu departed the Crusaders following a 78-66 win over Chicago State on Jan. 12, 2002.
Burton grew up just outside Houston and went to high school at Atascocita, less than 30 miles from Waltrip, the school where Falu won a state title as a junior and was named the No. 1 senior in Texas the following year. Both players were top 100 recruits coming out of high school. Burton began his collegiate career at Oklahoma State before transferring to Valparaiso, and Falu originally signed with Houston before attending San Jacinto College for two years and then arriving in Valparaiso.
Falu averaged 12.4 points while starting 10 games for the Crusaders. Burton also started 10 games while averaging 11.5 points. Both players faced early season troubles as Burton was held out of the first two games of this season after getting arrested for marijuana possession last January. Falu played in the season opener against Purdue, but then was held out of the next three games because of a violation of team rules.
While Burton’s exit became official this week, the Crusaders have been picking up the pieces since the talented forward was sent home from Valparaiso’s trip to California on Dec. 19.
“Losing a teammate is never easy,” Valparaiso coach Matt Lottich said. “Joe definitely was a part of this team. No one is feeling sorry for us. We have to continue to pluck away and continue to move forward and deal with what we have.”
The 2001-02 Crusaders responded to Falu’s departure by winning the next eight games and ultimately winning the Mid-Continent Conference title and returning to the NCAA tournament. Valparaiso’s current players, who likely have never heard of Falu, will be playing with Burton in the back of their minds for the rest of the season. Sophomore point guard Bakari Evelyn has “JB 10” written on his shoes, and several players are still keeping in constant contact with Burton.
“We’re playing for him,” Valparaiso senior Max Joseph said. “We want to win games for him. He’s still our teammate.”
Schaub out for the season: The Valparaiso women’s basketball team suffered another blow last week when junior point guard Hannah Schaub completely tore her ACL in practice. Schaub originally partially tore her ACL on Nov. 21 during the second game of the season. Schaub missed the next 11 games and was planning to return to action when she suffered the complete tear in advance of last Friday’s home conference opener against Illinois State.
Schaub has started 60 games at point guard since arriving on campus in the fall of 2015, averaging 4.5 points and 3.95 assists per game.
Schaub becomes the latest in a long line of Valparaiso women’s basketball players to suffer season-altering injuries. Redshirt freshmen Allison Stoller and Marlee Profitt both missed last season with torn ACLs while senior Georgi Donchetz missed a bulk of her first two seasons after recovering from a knee injury suffered in high school. Sarah Godwin missed two straight years with a combination of injuries while star guard Jessi Wiedemann (back) was limited to 17 games over the final two years of her career.