It’s been anticipated all season that the sophomore point guard would leave early for the NBA at year’s end, but on Sunday, Burke officially announced that he was foregoing his last two years of eligibility in Ann Arbor and entering the NBA Draft.
Burke, who won all four major player of the year awards, had one of the best seasons of any Wolverine in the last decade, averaging close to 19 points and seven assists a game.
He was a big reason for Michigan’s return to national prominence. Without him, Michigan doesn’t even come close to advancing to the national title game for the first time since 1993.
It was a remarkable rise for the Columbus, Ohio native — out of high school, no major scouting service had Burke higher than the 15th best point guard in the class of 2011. He will leave Michigan with the single season record for assists and the Big Ten Player of the Year award in tow.
Burke almost left early for the NBA after his freshman season — one where he led the Wolverines to a Big Ten title — but decided to come back to Michigan to try and win a national championship. The Wolverines were just six points away from that goal in their 82-76 loss to Louisville.
“There wasn’t one time that I felt he was playing for the NBA and not for Michigan,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “He probably thought about it from time to time, when coach had him going to study hall or up in the morning running, but at the same time, his focus in practice and the games was, ‘How can I help Michigan now?’
“It was the right formula to help his career in the long run.”
Burke is the second point guard in three years to leave Ann Arbor early, joining Darius Morris, who left after the 2010-11 season. Morris fell to the second round before being drafted by his current team, the Los Angeles Lakers.
With a draft class that’s expected to be much weaker this year than last, it makes sense that Burke decided to leave. This is also the case for the other three Wolverines with an NBA Draft decision to make — freshmen forwards Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III, as well as junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. — who are expected to make their decisions in the next two weeks.
“Trey Burke’s decision today is more of a reason for celebration,” said assistant coach Bacari Alexander. “Trey’s done a tremendous job of gathering information and making an educated decision with the people he trusts, and quite frankly, coach Beilein is very transparent in the process, so I think those guys have great clarity when they decide.”
Added Beilein: “If you recruit well enough, and develop players well enough, this is inevitable. We embrace it. We have no other choice but to embrace it and try to guide young men through it.”
Burke’s height is a draft concern — listed at just 6-feet tall, he’s short for an NBA point guard. But Burke more than makes up for it with an explosive first step and terrific quickness.
Burke said that he’s expecting to go in the top 15 of the draft, but several mock drafts have him in the top 10, and some even in the top five.
“He’s always been a winner,” said assistant coach Lavall Jordan. “That’s one of the qualities that nobody can teach. If Trey has anything to do with it, his team is likely to come out on the winning side.”
He entered Ann Arbor as a relatively unknown talent, but after two short, yet dominating seasons, Trey Burke is leaving as one of the best basketball players in the history of the Michigan basketball program.
“Trey never wavered on his dedication to the program,” Alexander said. “From the time he walked through the doors to today’s press conference, here’s a young man who was demonstrated what poise personified is. It’s almost as if he’s destined for greatness on some level.”