- Todd Needle/Daily
By Zach Helfand, Daily Sports Editor
Published March 11, 2013
For the first time in 24 years, the Big Ten Player of the Year is a Michigan Wolverine. On Monday, sophomore guard Trey Burke was awarded the honor by both the Big Ten coaches and media, becoming the first Michigan conference Player of the Year since Glen Rice in 1989.
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Burke averaged 19.2 points and 6.8 assists a game in the regular season and beat out competitors like Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller for the award.
“We can’t say enough about Trey and what he has meant for this program, what he has meant to the Big Ten and really what he has meant to the national profile of the Big Ten,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “He’s a terrific competitor and a great teammate, and it is a great pleasure to coach him every day.”
The distinction caps one of the best seasons by a Michigan point guard in recent memory. Burke powered Michigan’s offense, sometimes singlehandedly, with a startling consistency. He leads the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.5), averaging just two turnovers a game in Big Ten play, and he scored 15 points or more in every single conference game.
At the biggest moments, Burke was there for Michigan. In losses, like the two against Indiana, Burke was the only reason the Wolverines hung close.
In close wins, Burke supplied the crucial stops and the deciding baskets. Against Ohio State on Feb. 5, Burke’s block of Aaron Craft sealed the game at the buzzer. Last week, Burke’s steal and layup won the game over Michigan State in the waning seconds of the game.
It was a season that almost never happened. After a breakout freshman season, Burke nearly declared for the NBA draft. At times, he said later, he thought he would leave. But after going back and forth, Burke decided to return.
Now, the decision has been validated by the Player of the Year distinction.
“I’m excited about the honor and will continue to get better and be a leader on this team to take it as far as it can go,” Burke said.
Five other Wolverines have garnered the award, a list comprising Rice, Cazzie Russell, Gary Grant, Campy Russell and Roy Tarpley.
“Honestly, I don’t really know what to say because it is a big accomplishment to be able to say that I am a part of that group,” Burke said. “I’m just thankful. I thank God for allowing me to be in this situation.”