Abdel Nader and Deonte Burton have weathered many storms together– sort of.
These two Oklahoma City Thunder role players share a connection that goes all the way back to their college days with the Iowa State Cyclones, a program that has only had 41 players make the NBA since 1946. Nader and Burton’s hard work under ISU coach Steve Prohm ensured that they would join this short list.
“[I’m] really proud of these two,” Prohm told the Daily Thunder. “Their stories are awesome.”
When discussing Nader, Prohm noted that while his success came later on, it was all earned through countless hours in the gym.
“When you look at Abdel Nader, transferring from Northern Illinois…he averaged five and a half points as a junior, shot 20% from three. And then his senior year, that summer and throughout the whole year, he was an everyday guy for me. And it was phenomenal to watch his growth. [He] ended up averaging right around 13 points, shot almost 40% from three, was a big part of a Sweet Sixteen run that we had that year. And to watch the success that he’s had, he’s one of the guys– I’m proud of all of them– but his story and what he’s been able to do has been phenomenal. He’s being a pro’s pro right now.”
Burton, like Nader, also transferred into ISU. Prohm pointed out the similarities in their stories, citing their work ethic as these players’ best quality.
“You look at Deonte Burton, he transferred in from Marquette and I coached him as a junior and senior. And the strides he made between his junior and senior year were incredible,” Prohm said. “But again, his work ethic was off the charts. He went overseas for a year and then found his way into the Thunder’s organization and has really kind of locked himself in there as well. Phenomenal, phenomenal athlete.”
Along with work ethic, Prohm praised his former players for their ability to find a role in the NBA and be successful in it.
“The hardest thing I think to do in life is to sustain success, and I think you see them doing that,” Prohm said. “They both signed a couple year contracts when they initially signed with the Thunder. And the path that they’ve gotten to–it hasn’t been a five-star recruit on the ninth pick in the draft. Their work ethic, their character, their attention to detail, being a pro’s pro, that’s what’s helped them sustain their success. Those are two guys that I talk about a lot because I’m really proud (of them).”
And Prohm does frequently talk about Nader and Burton– especially on recruiting trips. He said they’re one of the biggest selling points to recruits who want to achieve the NBA dream.
“Those are probably two of the guys that I talk about the most when you talk about recruiting,” Prohm said. “You just look at their development and their character and their work ethic and just what they’ve been able to do.”
This hard work has paid dividends for Nader and Burton in the NBA in their own right. Nader is a solid rotational piece, plays underrated defense and has improved his offensive game this season by being a more consistent shooter from mid-range and three. Burton is also coming into his own. He’s undersized, but makes up for it with his muscular frame. He weighs 245 pounds, which helps him be a physical force on the defensive end.
Though they both need more consistency in their game, Nader and Burton have evolved from college underdog stories to NBA role players. It’s been quite the ride.