Should Trey Burke stay in school, or leave early? A look at both sides
The offseason is officially underway, and the Michigan basketball program has uncertainty surrounding its point guard.
Just another spring in Ann Arbor.
For the third straight year, a Michigan guard is contemplating an early exit from school for a shot at professional basketball.
This year, freshman point guard Trey Burke is thinking about it -- but hasn't gone anywhere just yet.
Should he stay? Should he go? That's for he and his family to decide, and they have every right to explore both avenues.
Here's a case for both sides of the coin:
Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com
Strike while the iron's hot
Burke's father, Benji Burke, alluded to as much earlier in the week, and it's a point that shouldn't go overlooked.
As a freshman in college, Burke was the leading scorer on a co-Big Ten championship squad, broke Michigan's single-season rookie assist record, played more minutes than any other freshman in program history and was the league's co-Freshman of the Year.
Quite simply, that's an extremely tough act to follow.
Michigan will have more talent on paper next season, even with the recent departure of Evan Smotrycz. Meaning, the opportunity for Burke to average 12 shots per game throughout a 35ish-game season might not be as strong.
Even if the shots are there every night, he's got to hit. Burke really never went through any type of extended scoring or shooting drought as a freshman, and should he return next year and struggle a bit, his stock may fall.
He's a hot name right now, and his numbers on paper are terrific, even if they do come from a small sample size.
He's not getting any taller, or younger
There's one thing about Burke that will always linger as a knock on him throughout his basketball career, and it's something he cannot control.
He's listed at 5-foot-11, which is actually rather small for today's college game, not to mention the modern pro game. Along the same lines of the "strike while it's hot" idea, Burke's stock will always be limited due to his height. So, if it's hot right now, maybe you roll the dice.
It's no secret how NBA teams draft. They draft on potential and they very much prefer youth.
Burke is 19 years old right now, and he's 5-foot-11. The chances of a pro team taking a shot on a 19-year-old, 5-foot-11 point guard may be a bit higher than a team rolling the dice on a 22-year-old, 5-foot-11 point guard.
Living the dream
When you boil it all down, take away all the numbers and what ifs, Trey Burke is like every other kid who signs a letter of intent to play college basketball.
Some are more audible about it than others, but no one enters a program without an end goal of playing in the NBA.
It's a big part of why Burke meticulously prepared last summer, why he soaked up any minute he could and why he decided to attend a school like Michigan in the first place.
No one, his family included, expected Burke to be this good, this quickly. But he has been. And if his advisory paperwork comes back with an optimistic outlook, it'll be extremely difficult for Burke -- and everyone who supports him -- to say no to the next opportunity.
Say what you will about Manny Harris and Darius Morris, but as of today, both of those players are members of an NBA organization.
The money never hurts, obviously. But the mere chance to fulfill a dream will always speak awfully loud.
Why he might stay
He'll get better in Beilein's system
For anyone who was paying attention this year, Burke was Beilein's system.
After having success with Darius Morris in 2010-11 and again with Burke in 2011-12, it's pretty clear that Beilein's offense (at the moment) completely runs through the point guard.
If Burke comes back, he may have more mouths to feed in terms of shots and scoring opportunities, but he'll be the one deciding where the ball goes. Because, frankly, it'll be in his hand 37 minutes a game.
Also, there's no one else waiting in the wings.
Of all the standout recruits Beilein is brining in next season, not one of them is a point guard. There is no serious backup, no one to threaten his minutes, no one to steal his spot.
With Morris, that had to have been a serious concern. One way or another Burke was going to play last season, whether Morris was at Michigan or not. This time around, though, there is no upstart freshman coming in to split time.
Michigan's entire offense runs around Burke, and should he return, he'll be supremely showcased on a nationally-watched program from November to March.
He's not ready -- yet
Burke had a marvelous season, but he's far from perfect.
Against physical defenders (Ohio State's Aaron Craft), he struggled to turn the corner. Against speedy defenders (Purdue's Lewis Jackson), he struggled to shake free. And against teams with length and bulk (Ohio State, Michigan State), Burke couldn't get off clean shots and had trouble finding open teammates.
He was out-played head-to-head by speedy Ohio point guard D.J. Cooper on a big stage in the NCAA Tournament, and far too often settled for forced shots on the break and from deep.
He made of ton of them, but he also missed plenty as well.
Physically, there's not much Burke can do about some of his limitations. Mentally, he absolutely can.
By working with Beilein and Michigan assistant LaVall Jordan, Burke can find ways to combat his size issue when opponents prey on it. He can become a better defender and he can become less of a score-first guard, and more of a complete distributor.
If he enters the draft, every one of those aforementioned issues will arise in pre-selection workouts. And he won't have another season of college to fall back on to fix them.
Big man on campus with a shot to win
Burke's not Denard Robinson in Ann Arbor, but he's not exactly an unknown.
In just one year on campus, Burke became kind of a big deal.
When ESPN's College GameDay visited Crisler Center earlier this year, and the Michigan basketball team walked onto the court, the majority of signs in the crowd featured Burke's name.
And when the game ended, he was the player standing at center court talking to Erin Andrews on live television.
He's fun to watch, fans seem to adore him and next season -- alongside Tim Hardaway Jr. -- he'd be the face of Beilein's program. Those preseason posters you see touting Michigan hoops on the sides of downtown buses? They'll be covered in Burke action shots.
And, on top of all that, Michigan has a chance to be very, very good.
After the Wolverines lost to Ohio earlier this month in the NCAA Tournament, Burke went through his obligations to reporters in the locker room, holding court with roughly 20 of them right away.
But once that pack broke up, and Burke made his way to a locker, his face portrayed more frustration than any other underclassman in the room.
If Burke leaves, he'll never be able to avenge the way Michigan ended the 2011-12 season, and that'll be his legacy.
If he returns, he has more control on how he'll be remembered.
And maybe, he'll add another ring to his collection.
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