Michigan Basketball: Trey Burke leads the way

The Michigan Wolverines’ coaching staff has something more special than even they could have imagined when Trey Burke signed his letter of intent to come play basketball for John Beilein.

Trey Burke

Six months ago the buzz was: Trey Burke, the unknown commodity. And now?

Placing a label on a freshman can be dangerous. But maybe it’s that very label, freshman, which is the most unfair of all.

As far as credits taken in college, sure, Trey Burke is a freshman. As far as basketball acumen, fearlessness, and leadership, Trey Burke is a grizzled veteran.

After all, there isn’t anything “freshman” about being 2nd in the conference in assists and 6th in assist-to-turnover ratio.

Statistically speaking, Burke is the most impressive Michigan freshman point guard since Daniel Horton came north from Texas to begin a tremendous 4-year run in Ann Arbor. In terms of what a Michigan point guard means to his team, Burke is bridging the gap left when Jalen Rose departed Michigan for the NBA.

Last March

When Darius Morris bounced a floater off the rim and Michigan lost to Duke in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament last year, the feeling was not one of devastation, but optimism. With Morris at the helm and everyone else returning, Michigan had a legit shot at a final 4 in 2012.

Instead, Morris bolted for the NBA, was eventually drafted in the 2nd round by the Lakers, and fans of the Maize and Blue were left to wonder what might have been.

Meanwhile, down in Ohio, Burke was honing his skills, running the steps, and working his tail off to become the best basketball player he knew how. The preseason chatter amongst lesser- informed Michigan faithful was that it was too much too soon for Burke to be able to fill Darius’ shoes (an opinion not endorsed by isportsweb.com – see season preview segment here). A shared point guard role between him and Stu Douglass was the expectation — and a small step backward for Michigan the accepted view.

Wrong again.

Averaging 35.3 minutes/game (5th in the conference), Burke’s hard work has paid off as he has become an invaluable member of the team.

Running Out of Words

To listen to his teammates try to describe his value is truly a thing of beauty (see video below).

Competitive, improving, putting the team on his shoulders, we’re following him, intensity, will to win, humble, level-headed.

Zack Novak sums it up best when he says, “I run out of words for the kid” when trying to describe Trey Burke.

He has saved some of his biggest moments for the team’s biggest games. He scored 14 against Memphis and followed that up a day later with 17 and 9 assists v. Duke. He teased a triple-double against Indiana with 10 points, 7 boards, and 8 assists. He scored 14 and 20 in wins against Wisconsin and Michigan State, respectively. It’s what he does.

On the season he is scoring 14 points per game, and adding 3.5 rebounds, and 4.8 assists while shooting 43% from the floor and 36% from long range.

Just for the sake of remembrance, Darius Morris averaged 4.4 points/game in his freshman season along with 1.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists. Trey Burke is ahead of all curves.

Stud

When Burke makes one of his increasingly familiar head-shaking plays during the course of a game, Rob and I just look at each other from our media seating at the Crisler Center and simultaneously say, “stud”. I think that’s a fair label to put on him at this point.

Take his in-traffic rebound against Illinois for instance. He defies common sense by coming down with the rebound against 2 bigger opponents, then puts the ball on the floor, races end-to-end and finishes with a sweet left-handed layup right in the face of 6’8’’ Tyler Griffey. Stud.

Michigan has just 5 games left in the regular season and only 2 more at home, the last two in the careers of captains Novak and Stu Douglass. The baton is going to be passed soon, and it’s being passed to a 5’11’’ freshman from Columbus, Ohio.

Burke has the game, the intangibles, the character, and the presence to not only lead Michigan into the future, but to help them shock the world this March.

Trey Burke is a flat out stud.

You can follow us on Twitter @isportsJoe and @isportsRob

Be sure to check out other great articles at isportsweb.

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About justinwelton
Justin Welton, founder of BaselineHoops, has been writing about a variety of sports for more than three years. He has been featured on latimes.com, philly.com, stltoday.com, SFGate.com, Chron.com and seattlepi.com.

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