The Miles Basketball Minute: The Ex Coach Scouting Report JT Burton (Tusculum) Vs Donovan Donaldson (Fraport Skyliners)

Over the years the Fraport Skyliners who have won 3 titles in their 22 year history have had some very special point guards that could take over the game at any time in the last 11 seasons. If I were to make a top 3 in that time, it wouldn’t be difficult. The names that pop into my head come as quickly as being able to remember that magical 70 point explosion by Devin Booker in the NBA or recently the overwhelming offensive onslaught by Luka Doncic marking an Olympic record with 48 points. Obviously Dashaun Wood is #1. The ex Wright State (NCAA) standout was able to take over games like no other. Ex teammate Quantez Robertson could write a book about his teammate. In second place is clearly ex Seton Hall (NCAA) great Jordan Theodore who got Frankfurt out of countless jams in the easyCredit and helped lead the team to the 2016 Fiba Europe Cup. In third place is easily ex California (NCAA) great Justin Cobbs who was the general on the court and had a special calmness on the court seldom seen. He led the team into the playoffs after the club has started very poorly and led them into the 2015 Eurochallenge Final 4. Could a new point guard named Donald Donovan compete with these guys and try to challenge for entering the top 3 ranking? When the club had made it official that he was the new point guard, I have to admit that I had never heard of him, but the ex Tusculum (NCAA2) standout has put up incredible numbers in lower professional leagues in Europe. The big question is, can he make the next step in a top 5 league EasyCredit BBL? ‘I have 100% confidence that he can make the next step with Frankfurt. He is playing with a confidence level right now that most coaches dream of having on their roster. He’s going put in the work and he won’t get comfortable, it’s just not in his personality. I expect Don to make a name for himself in this league’, warned Tusculum (NCAA2) head coach JT Burton. Will Donovan also be able take over games the way Wood, Theodore and Cobbs did? Burton will never forget a game against Wingate where the American showed his unique abilities netting 32 points in an exciting 80-77 victory. ‘As a team we were on a winning streak, and when we went into that Wingate game, that was huge. It was on the road, and they were a team that in years past we had struggled against. He took that game over and was making one play after another. Whether it was scoring, assisting, or locking up one of their players, he did it all the game. He carried us to that victory and I felt that was the point in our season when he, along with our entire program knew what we were building here and that success was just around the corner’, stressed JT Burton.

Donovan Donaldson (185-G-96, college: Tusculum, agency: Mansfield and Associates) was born on October 1, 1996 in Nashville, Tennessee. He got early basketball experience at Hillsboro high school where he was coached by Rodney Theweatt and Jamie Graham. He averaged 14,5ppg, 5,6apg and 4,5rpg. He led the school to the district and region championships and was named to the All-Metro team and was District MVP. He then attended Trevecca Nazarene University from 2015-2017 playing a total of 53 games. In his freshman year he played 27 games averaging 6,7ppg. He made a big jump in his second season playing 26 games averaging 12.3ppg, 3.0rpg, 2.7apg, FGP: 51.6%, 3PT: 38.1%, FT: 64.9%. He scored in double figures in 18 games including 26 points against Christian Brothers, 21 points against Auburn-Mongomery and 20 points a piece against KY Wesleyan and twice against Mckendree. After two years there, he decided to make a change and went to Tusculum. There he was able to develop further as a player playing a total of 55 NCAA 2 games and as a junior played 27 games averaging 14.1ppg, 2.9rpg, 4.6apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 44.6%, 3PT: 36.2%, FT: 80.4%. He scored in double figures in 18 games including 26 points against Newberry and 24 points against Wingate. In his senior year, the school made a change as JT Burton came on board as head coach. He had made a big leap in his career having made a name for himself at St. Catharine College (NAIA) and Motlow State College (JUCO) registering a NAIA D1 Elite Eight appearance and NJCAA D1 Elite Eight appearance while also winning the TCCAA Tournament. He was instrumental in Donaldson continuing to develop. As a senior he played 28 games averaging 15.4ppg, 5.0rpg, 2.6apg, FGP: 42.5%, 3PT: 41.4%, FT: 69.9%. He scored in double figures in 19 games and had some explosive games netting 32 points a piece against Newberry and Wingate and also hit Lincoln Memorial for 27 points. J.T Burton remembers seeing Donovan Donaldson for the first time on the court in the first team practice in 2018. ‘I knew he had the talent to be something special. His speed and ability to shoot at a high level separated him from anyone on our team’, stated JT Burton. He scored 818 points in his NCAA 2 career and 212 career assists, 188 rebounds, 67 steals and 10 blocks.

The American turned professional in 2019 and played his first season overseas with KK Gostivar (North Macedonia-Prva Liga) playing 17 games averaging 16.9ppg, 5.9rpg, 4.4apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 58.9%, 3PT: 40.0%, FT: 69.9%. He scored in double figures in 13 games, His best scoring games included scorching Kumanovo for 28 points. He also had fantastic games against Kozuv with 31 points and produced 29 points against Euro Nickel. Last season he continued his offensive onslaught in Europe playing with two Hungarian teams JP-Auto Jaszbereny KSE (Hungary-A Division) averaging 21.2ppg, 3.7rpg, 4.4apg, 1.7spg, 2FGP: 46.4%, 3FGP: 45.6%, FT: 81.4%, and with Zalakeramia ZTE KK (Hungary-A Division) averaging 13.5ppg, 2.9rpg, 2.3apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 52.5%, 3PT: 36.2%, FT: 84.0%. He scored 32 points a piece against PVSK-Veolia and against JP-Auto JKSE. He also had a monster game against Kaposvari with 30 points. He had a chip early on in school and it must still be on his shoulder now as a professional as he continues to play very consistently at the pro ranks. ‘The chip on his shoulder was there when he put his focus on winning. He knows he can play with anybody, D2, D1, or even professionals. That chip on his shoulder became present when he saw the opportunity to win and make a name for not only himself, but his teammates as well’, said JT Burton.

Donaldson will begin his third professional season in Germany for the Fraport Skyliners in a top 5 league called the easyCredit BBL.So what type of player will German fans witness in the arena? If one observes his game one could compare his game to a Damian Lillard of the Portland Trailblazers. A coach will always cringe badly and the way an old man will when his family tells him for the 100th time that it’s time to enter a nursing home when his player takes a bad shot. Donovan is one of those players that won’t always make the best shot selection, but there is a big difference to other players in the result of the shot. ‘He takes ‘bad’ shots, but he makes them at a consistent rate. He has the speed and vision to create any shot for himself, and his IQ makes everyone around him better. He has that type of mentality, he plays with so much confidence and has a swagger about him that is contagious’, warned JT Burton. It is obvious to see that a big strength in his game is his scoring, but he has an even greater quality if not the greatest quality of them all. ‘I’d go far enough to say that he is a winner. What he did for our program in his one season with us was incredible. His confidence is second to none and he just simply finds a way to win’, stressed JT Burton. He also has proved at many levels that he is a two way player. ‘He can defend. Here, he had to guard. For us and our culture, it’s not just about scoring. Don struggled a little bit with that at first, but over time he became one of our best on-ball defenders’, added JT Burton. His offensive game has overshadowed his spirted defensive game that took true form at Tusculum. ‘He has a lot of pride on defense now, that took some time to develop but once he saw how much he can impact the game on the defensive end, that’s when it clicked and he bettered himself in defending ball screenings, not getting backdoored, standing opponents up on drives, etc. He got better at all those little things defensively and before you knew it, he was one of our best on-ball defenders’, stated JT Burton. He had always been a solid three point shooter in school, but his percentage hit 40% for the first time his senior year as JT Burton was helping him develop it further and has continued to eclipse the 40% mark as a professional. ‘. I think he always knew he could shoot it and had that big play potential in him. He just wasn’t as consistent, and I think that related to confidence. Once he saw what we were trying to do here, he played with a confidence level that was unmatched’, remembered JT Burton.

Donovan Donaldson and head coach JT Burton at Tusculum(NCAA2)

Tusculum head coach JT Burton has continued to watch Donovan Donaldson progress as a player at the pro ranks. And now that he is playing in a top league with the Fraport Skyliners he will most likely keep an even closer eye on his game. ‘I’ve been fortunate to maintain a relationship with all of my players in my coaching career. I am proud of Don, I’ve watched him work himself into being a pro, and to maintain the consistency in his work ethic and drive to being better each and every day has been special to watch. Players like Don are the reason I’m proud to be a coach’, expressed JT Burton. The ex Tusculum guard is also one of those players that will be an important role model for the young Skyliners on and off the court. ‘ He’s a great guy off the court. He keeps his nose clean, he stays out of trouble and was always super respectful to others around him. He’s a quiet guy, but very polite and stays humble and hungry’, commented JT Burton. He is a player that will make mistakes, but a guy who won’t just brush them off and not reflect on them. He is a player that has a real heart and wants to do good on the court for his team and himself. Head coach JT Burton got a real close account of what kind of person Donovan Donaldson really is. ‘I’ll never forget the time he wasn’t going hard in practice. I remember bringing him in and telling him that he wasn’t traveling with us to Catawba because his effort wasn’t where it should be. We go to Catawba, lose a tough one, and that night when we got back from Salisbury, NC he was waiting outside my office. He begged me to let him back on the team, and I did. The rest is history, his effort and attitude took a complete turnaround for the best. I tell that story to our young guys within our program to remind them of the expectations we have set here’, warned JT Burton. Playing in the easyCredit BBL will be a challenge for Donovan Donaldson, but one he will be able to master. He may not necessarily leave a type of legacy that Wood, Theodore and Cobbs left right away, but he will leave an impression on everybody every day on and off the court.

Article written July 29th, 2021

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