On a darkened court at the Crisler Center, Trey Burke dribbles a ball in and out of his legs, surrounded by black.
As the sophomore point guard discusses his decision to forego the NBA Draft and return to Ann Arbor for his sophomore year, the camera pans over the darkened court.
Burke, at the center, is the lone source of movement.
He talks about how much he has grown as a point guard and, how important it was for him to return for his sophomore year at Michigan. Then, the screen cuts to Michigan coach John Beilein, who provides his own take on Burke’s decision.
“I’m sure there are some days he thought it might be best for him to go (to the NBA),” Beilein said on the show. “But I know when he said to the coaching staff and his teammates, ‘All right, I’m in here, let’s go,’ that’s all we cared about.”
Burke, along with other point guards in the Big Ten, was featured in this week’s edition of “The Journey,” a show on the Big Ten Network that dives into the off-the-court lives of players and coaches in Big Ten basketball every week.
Over the last four years, the show has worked almost like a documentary, giving viewers an inside look to the interworkings of teams in the Big Ten each week. It does behind the scenes features and interviews, often getting unparalleled access with players and coaches.
“The Journey” was created four years ago, meaning that most players in the Big Ten have been around the show since they have been playing college basketball. This allows the producers of the show to track certain players, like Burke, before they even begin college.
This is the third time Burke has been featured on “The Journey,” but it’s the first time this season. Generally, each individual segment runs about six minutes, so it’s a telling sign of Burke’s young career that he has already been featured three times in less than two full seasons.
In this week’s episode, footage from Burke’s senior season of high school was shown as part of the show. Even though Burke wasn’t highly recruited before he became a Wolverine, the producers of “The Journey” filmed Burke in high school and held onto that footage for three years.
In the scene, Burke is dribbling the ball in his Northland High School jersey at the top of the key. The camera unfocuses for a couple seconds, revealing Beilein sitting behind him, intently watching his future floor general.
“We had kind of known about Trey a year earlier, because we had gone to do a story about Jared Sullinger, whose dad just happened to be Burke’s coach,” said Bill Friedman, a senior producer at the Big Ten Network. “We shot the game and saw this kid was really good. At the time, he had been a Michigan commit, so we kind of sat on that footage. It worked out.”
The show wouldn’t function without the amount of access it is granted. “The Journey” shoots around 15-25 hours a week, even though the show is just a half hour — closer to 22 minutes with commercials.
Friedman and the other producers of the show have witnessed Michigan’s ascension over the last three seasons, from Big Ten also-ran to national contender, and he had good things to say about the progress of the Michigan program over the last three seasons.
“It’s been really neat for us to see how the program has grown,” Friedman said. “Beilein is very embracing of what we try to do, his assistants are great people, and the players are well-spoken, engaging people. That’s what’s fun to be around. You don’t have to worry about his team, because they all have their heads on straight.
“That’s one of the things that comes across to us loud and clear when we visit Michigan. They are really fun to be around.”
If you missed it, the episode re-airs Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., and at 11 p.m.