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Posted on Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

The freshman wall: Will it hit Michigan basketball point guard Trey Burke?

By Nick Baumgardner

To say Trey Burke plays a lot of minutes is almost misleading.

To truly understand how much the Michigan basketball team's freshman point guard has played this season, one has to look inside the numbers.

And, upon further examination, the results show the following:

Burke plays more minutes than anyone on the Michigan roster, he plays more than any freshman in the Big Ten and he's approaching elite company in the Michigan record books for time played by a first-year player.

A lot? No. More like a ton.


Michigan freshman point guard Trey Burke averages 35 minutes a game.

Angela J. Cesere |

But, is this a problem?

"I feel as good about him (minutes-wise as anyone)," Michigan coach John Beilein said earlier this week. "He's so athletic, and sometimes, athletic kids are so light on their feet that their legs might not take the same pounding (as others)."

As of Tuesday, with the Big Ten season at its halfway point, Burke had played at least 37 minutes 12 times this season.

Additionally, his average of 35 minutes per game is at least two minutes more than anyone on the Michigan roster, has him fourth overall in the Big Ten and is less than two minutes away from Penn State's Tim Frazier, the league-leader at 36.7 per night.

In a four-game stretch against Michigan State, Arkansas, Purdue and Ohio State, Burke played 153 of a possible 160 minutes.

And, it's out of necessity, as Michigan has yet to establish a true backup point guard to give Burke any type of extended break.

As a senior last season at Columbus Northland, Burke played 28 games. He'll pass that mark later this month at Northwestern, and will still have three regular-season games, a Big Ten Tournament and a possible NCAA Tournament run in front of him.

"I'm good," Burke said earlier this season when asked how his body was handling the rigors of the Big Ten. "I'm bruised up after some games, but our trainers and strength and conditioning coaches do a good job of keeping me healthy.

"I don't think it's been a big issue, as long as we win (I'm fine)."

Just two previous Michigan freshmen finished their first season with a higher minutes per game total than Burke currently holds. And they were both point guards.

Eric Turner averaged 36.9 per game in 1981-82, Daniel Horton played 36.1 per game in 2002-03.

To further quantify Burke's first-year workload, consider this. During the Fab Five's freshman season of 1991-92, Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson accounted for 68 percent of the team's overall minutes played.

Not one of them averaged more than Burke's current mark of 35 minutes per game.

The Fab Five never wore out, eventually leading Michigan to the first of two straight Final Fours. Turner and Horton? They seemed fine as well.

Turner only seemed to get stronger as time went on, putting up double-digit scoring efforts in his final 14 games of the season before ending the year with 14.7 points and 4.4 assists per game.

Horton, who led the team in scoring at 15.2 points per game in 2002-03, stayed strong despite heavy usage — putting up a season-high 31 points on the road at Purdue in late February.

Will Burke enjoy the same fate? His past suggests he just may.

"When we knew Darius (Morris) wouldn't be back (this season), we told him to prepare to start," Burke's father Benji, who also served as his AAU coach, said last week. "He really, really trained hard to have his body right and to have his conditioning right.

"We were prepared for this."

Several times earlier in the season, Beilein expressed concern about the high-level of minutes Burke had accrued.

But as time has gone on, there seems to be less and less worry.

"Particularly with freshmen, they're used to playing a 24-game season, they're used to playing every Tuesday and Friday night," Beilein said. "They're used to getting home after the game and having pizza with their family, not getting in at 3 a.m. after a trip to Nebraska or Wisconsin.

"But we talk about (taking care of your body) all the time. ... That's a fundamental concept of college basketball."

For normal first-year players, the freshman wall almost always comes calling at some point or another.

However, Burke's been anything but normal this season. He's done a lot of things people didn't think possible back in October.

Strike that. Not a lot.

A ton.

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan basketball for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.

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Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 2:37 p.m.

23 games since early November is not asking much of a 19-year-old Division I athlete (he's almost a year older than most college freshmen). Now that they're ranked and on television a lot, they get very long media time-outs, so there is plenty of in-game rest. My concern is losing Trey to the NBA. His numbers compare very favorably with both Mike Conley Jr. and Darius Morris in their pre-NBA college seasons (Conley jumped after his freshman year). Though shorter, he's a better pentrator, ball-handler and 3-point shooter than Morris and is very similar to Conley Jr. (though a better shooter than him as well). His only shortcoming (aside from being short) is that he is not as proficient a distributor of the ball as those two. He tends to drive the lane, get himself in trouble and then try to make a spectacular pass to bail himself out. When it works, it looks great, when it doesn't, he looks like a freshman. I hope Trey sticks around, but it would be very nice to see Brundidge get a bit more playing time just in case he's called upon to run the offense next season.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 2:03 p.m.

Good article. I think it will be an issue for the team come March. Trey is playing a lot and working his butt off while he is out there. But, what's the alternative? Beilein is doing what he has to to win games. Burke has become the one guy that creates his own shot and he creates good looks for his teammates off his penetration moves.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 1:58 p.m.

"Is this a problem?" No, the kid a native of Columbus, Ohio so he's naturally performing at a high level and will continue.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

I am not sure how tired players get with t.v. timeouts every four minutes plus 5 time outs per coach? They get a ton of rest during hte game. A well placed substitution at the 16;10 mark might get a guy an dextra minute rest while only losing 15-20 seconds of actual clock time. As far as a long season goes, you have to figure that a a guy like Burke has been traveling across the country to play ball for several years now. 30 yearas ago guys ran out of gas at the year of the year, but these guys have been playing 100 games a year for four or five years now. Maybe the best thing I have seen about Burke is that he doesn't play defense like a freshman. The blocked shot he had late in the game last night was huge. A comment on his defense (which is anything but freshman level) is something I have to make. It will be interesting to see if he can keep Appling down this weekend. Appling is coming off a 4 point performance and will have something to prove. Burke will be traveling to MSU (something Brady Hoke was not ready for) and I sure hope Burke will be up for the Breslin Center crowd, that just might be the biggest test of his rfeshman year so far. Go Blue '85!