NEWBERRY — Seniors Rob Valentine and Quaman Burton view their friendship like chapters in a book.
The first chapter began on the first day of fifth grade in the cafeteria at George Mason Elementary.
“He was wild,” said Valentine.
From there a budding friendship quickly formed as both Valentine and Burton found themselves in the same homeroom class. Naturally, they sat side-by-side. Even as the pair parted ways during middle and high school, sports helped keep them together. They found early success on the little league football field as part of the Powhatan Chiefs. With Valentine under center and Burton at wide receiver, the duo helped their team advance to the championship.
Being together grew in importance for Burton and Valentine as they shifted their attention from the football field to the basketball court.
While Valentine fell in love with basketball through his daily visits to the Boys and Girls Club, it was the Richmond community that pushed Burton to take his talents seriously.
“I was not really into sports, but I would just enjoy playing,” said Burton. “A lot of people in the community pushed me to play [basketball], but it was not until high school that I took it seriously.”
Despite attending separate high schools, Burton joined Valentine on the court sophomore year at Armstrong High School.
“I thought he was lying,” said Valentine on his reaction to Burton telling him he was coming to Armstrong.
Unfortunately, the situation did not pan out and the pair once again found themselves competing on different teams.
Burton and Valentine shared the same court, albeit on opposing teams, several times throughout high school. One contest that sticks out in particular was the semifinals of the regional tournament held at the Siegel Center.
“There’s a picture of [Valentine] coming off a screen and I was checking him, he shot a three, foul, and one early in the game,” said Burton.
Burton told Valentine weeks later that he thought his team was going to lose that game, but his team ended up winning in what would be one of several matchups between friends.
As college loomed Burton and Valentine were determined to play together, leading them to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.
“We were both supposed to go to Lincoln,” said Valentine.
But things do not always turn out the way they planned.
“The coach told me I was going to redshirt and I wanted to play right away,” Valentine said.
So Valentine decided to take his talents to Virginia Union while Burton went to Lincoln.
Despite the 206-mile separation between the two universities, Burton and Valentine kept a close eye on each other’s performance on the court.
“My freshman year got off to a rocky start, but when I looked at [Valentine] he was killing it so I called him and he was like ‘yeah, coach telling me to be aggressive,’” said Burton.
As Burton started to succeed on the court he received a phone call from Valentine with the same message.
The pair tried to reunite after their sophomore year of college with Valentine planning on transferring to Lincoln. A Lincoln coaching change turned that plan upside down.
The change left both Burton and Valentine searching for a new team.
“Meant to be” is the phrase Head Coach Dave Davis uses to describe how Burton and Valentine ended up at Newberry.
Prior to the beginning of the 2016 season, Davis was continuing his recruitment search when he heard Burton was planning on transferring from Lincoln. Davis had originally recruited Burton coming out of John Marshall High School so it did not take long for Davis to persuade Burton into coming to Newberry.
The day before Burton was set to visit Newberry, Davis got a phone call from Valentine’s high school coach, who happened to be a Newberry alum, saying he knew someone that would fit perfectly into Davis’ system.
Davis scheduled a visit for both Burton and Valentine, unaware that the pair knew each other.
Burton and Valentine visited Newberry the next day; best friends reunited again on the basketball court.
“We left Richmond at about 6 p.m. and got there around midnight,” said Valentine. “And the first thing we did was go to the gym and played 2-on-2 with Xavier Hill and James Stepp.”
The visit went well and the duo found themselves heading to Newberry for their junior year.
However, the season did not start off the way they expected.
“It was up and down,” said Burton. “I had to get adjusted to a lot of things that were going on and I had to change the person I was and the player I was so that was tough for me.”
But throughout the highs and lows, their friendship only strengthened.
“My first semester here was probably one of the lowest times of my life,”said Valentine. “And, to be honest, I don’t know where I would be at if I did not have [Burton] in the room everyday to help me and tell me it’d be okay.”
For Burton, it was all about adaptability and acceptance.
“I am the type of person that adapts to whatever gets thrown at me…but things happen how they happen,” he said.
The two made it through their junior year and came back for their final year with a newfound mentality.
Valentine had a dazzling senior season collecting 554 points that was bookended with a pair of 30+ point performances, tallying a career-high 34 points at Bob Jones and powering the Wolves to a win over Tusculum with 33 points on senior night.
The senior was unstoppable from long range connecting 109 times from beyond the arc. His 109 treys set a Newberry record for made three-pointers in a single season, with his 10 at Bob Jones on Nov. 14 setting another school record for most made during a singular game.
His efforts earned him several accolades including South Atlantic Conference All-Conference first team, All-ECAC first team, and D2CCA Southeast Region second team.
As Burton watched his best friend and fellow teammate light it up on the court he was overwhelmed with pride.
“On my end it got to a point where I’m playing for [Valentine],” said Burton. “My love for him and to see him doing what he was doing motivated me to keep doing the little things for the team.”
Burton says Valentine’s effort proves that you should never give up.
Reflecting on their time at Newberry, both Burton and Valentine agree that they have grown tremendously.
“It changed me to be a better man,” said Burton.
Valentine shared similar sentiments.
“I would not say I’ve completely changed but I have grown a lot,” he said.
Both credit Davis with helping them throughout their time at Newberry.
“He wanted the best for me and at the end of the day he’s trying to make you the best man you can be,” said Valentine.
“He impacted my life for the better…the love there is unquestionable,” said Burton.
One thing that has made a lasting impact on them is the kindness they have encountered during their time at Newberry.
“The people here have made me appreciate kindness,” said Burton. “Where we come from when you walk to the store or walk wherever nobody is speaking to you so coming here and having people saying hello to you or going to Gallman with the kids, I really paid attention to that. That’s something huge that I took from this two-year experience that I want to implement in my life for the rest of my life.”
As the duo anticipates their upcoming graduation, they are excited to start the next chapter in their lives.
Valentine wants to continue playing basketball and hopes to continue his career overseas.
Burton, a sociology major, wants a job in the school system helping kids. Eventually Burton wants to start his own business focusing on counseling and teaching kids that their options in life are limitless.
However, neither has ruled out a career in coaching.
“I’ve always wanted to coach,” said Valentine. “So I think before it’s all said and done I will be coaching.”
Burton has had some experience coaching back in Richmond, but for now is focused on his future business aspirations.
“Even though I’ll be coaching basketball, there’s a lot you can instill in a person through sports,” said Valentine.
Davis refers to the duo as “The Richmond Brothers.”
“[I] had no idea they knew each other and the timing of the phone call about Rob with the already scheduled visit with [Burton]…it was meant to be,” he said.
Regardless of where the future takes Burton and Valentine, they are looking forward to writing many more chapters together.
“I know, in my life, I’ll always have him in my corner like he always has me in his corner,” said Burton. “The love is always there.”