January 1 is all about the word new.
A new year. A new outlook on life. A new set of forecasts for what the upcoming year will hold. And if you’re like all the people planning to be at the gym on Monday morning, a new resolution. Most Americans stick with cliché New Year’s resolutions. Some even stay the same from year to year.
But Trey Burke’s New Year’s resolutions during the past few years probably looked a lot different than yours or mine. And with each new year, Burke’s new resolutions probably changed drastically every year. Let’s take a look:
2009: As a high school sophomore, Burke was already the starting point guard for powerhouse Northland High School in Columbus, who would go on to win the 2009 Ohio state championship. But while his teammate Jared Sullinger was one of the nation’s top recruits, Burke was receiving little attention from college coaches.
New Year’s resolution: Work harder in hopes of gaining recognition and earning scholarship offers.
2010: If Burke’s resolution in 2009 was to get noticed and receive scholarship offers, then his resolution was a success. In October of 2009, he committed to Penn State. The Nittany Lions hadn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2001.
New Year’s resolution: Work body into college-ready shape to make an early impact at Penn State and lead the Nittany Lions back into March Madness brackets.
2011: Burke continued to improve his own game, eventually winning Mr. Basketball in Ohio. But as his numbers continued to increase, so did the quantity and quality of his scholarship offers. While Penn State may have seemed like an ideal destination given his 2009 aspirations, Happy Valley no longer met his expectations. So in May of 2010, Burke switched his commitment to Michigan.
On Dec. 28, 2010, just days before 2011 was ushered in, the Wolverines were set to welcome Purdue to Crisler Arena. After an easy non-conference schedule, Michigan was 10-2 entering the game and sophomore guard Darius Morris’s play had been impressive. But Purdue rolled through Ann Arbor, winning 80-57, and Morris laid an egg, shooting 3-for-14.
Morris’s move to the NBA was still a pipe dream when the 2011 calendars replaced those of 2010. Burke had been playing well enough to garner a four-star recruiting ranking, and most analysts expected the Columbus native to compete for the backup point guard spot on the Wolverines’ roster.
New Year’s resolution: Keep getting better so that in a year, he’d be seeing meaningful bench minutes in Big Ten matchups.
Which brings us — or Trey, rather — to Dec. 31, 2011. While Ann Arbor was abuzz with partygoers preparing to welcome 2012 in style, Burke had a lot to reflect on.
Just two years earlier, his resolution was to be adequately prepared for when he’d put on a Penn State uniform. Instead, just days ago, he donned a Michigan jersey while scoring 13 points and dishing out seven assists in a win over his would-be team.
And instead of being the backup he likely assumed he’d be last year, Burke is one of the top freshmen in the country; the starting point guard and second-leading scorer for the No. 18 team in the nation. So as the seconds in 2011 ticked away, what could his new New Year’s resolution be?
It couldn’t have been limiting his turnovers in 2012. He already turns the ball over less than three times per game, outstanding for a starting point guard.
It couldn’t have been to make a name for himself on national television. He did that at the Maui Invitational, when he lit up Memphis and dropped 17 points on Duke.
It couldn’t have been to gain the trust of his teammates.
“Confidence is the best part about his game, but the flip side of that is the confidence that we give him, but we completely trust him,” said Stu Douglass, one of the team’s captains.
And for all you potential gym goers, it probably wasn’t even to get in better shape and become more durable. Burke is the team’s leading minute-getter.
So what might it have been?
It’s hard to call any game a must-win this early in the season, but a loss at home to Minnesota — who will likely finish toward the bottom of the Big Ten this season — on Sunday night would certainly hurt the team in the standings and, more importantly, in confidence.
But just like the game against Purdue a year ago, Michigan came out flat against Minnesota.
Evan Smotrycz, the team’s go-to player throughout December, scored a measly two points.Tim Hardaway Jr. shot 2-for-14 and scored just seven points. And Jordan Morgan had nearly as many turnovers (five) as points (seven).
But this year’s point guard — the one who couldn’t get scholarship offers, who was supposed to be a Nittany Lion or a bench warmer scrapping for minutes — had other plans, other resolutions.
When Michigan couldn’t buy a shot early on and fell behind in the first five minutes, Burke hit a 3-pointer. When the Wolverines needed a defensive stop in the game’s final minute, Burke came through with a perfect close-out on a shot-clock buzzer beater, forcing a Minnesota air ball and preserving Michigan’s lead.
All night, as the other Wolverines could hardly muster up any baskets, combining for just 34 points on 12-of-41 shooting, Burke dropped a career-high 27 points. He didn’t just single-handedly win the game for Michigan; he was the single hand as the Wolverines knocked off the Golden Gophers, 61-56.
Michigan stays unbeaten in the Big Ten, a conference that is now realizing that with the ball in Burke’s hands, the Wolverines’ season may be looking about as bright as the ball that dropped into New York’s Times Square on Saturday night.
So with all the new things that you hear about at this time of the year, Burke’s new New Year’s resolution just might’ve had something to do with the word new.
Because if Burke can keep increasing his level of play to new heights, as he did on Sunday and as he has done every year before, he may just lead the Wolverines to a berth in the 2012 home of the Final Four — New Orleans.
Sure, it’s a long shot. But wasn’t everything else that happened to Burke in the last couple of years a long shot, too?
Daniel Wasserman wishes you and your family a happy New Year, full of health, happiness, and unkept New Year’s resolutions. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @d_wasserman.