We profiled Michigan point guard Trey Burke in Dime #65 because we thought the rising freshman might be the real deal. After leading the Wolverines in points (14.8) and assists (4.6) for the season, our suspicions were confirmed. With Burke passing up a chance at the NBA to return for his sophomore season in Ann Arbor, we caught up with the standout point guard to talk about his decision to stay in school, freshman hazing and Michigan’s first round tournament loss to No. 13 Ohio.
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Dime: Why did you decide to stay at Michigan and pass up the chance play in the league?
Trey Burke: Well I just felt like it was the right decision for me to make. After talking it over with my family, the coaching staff, we kind of pretty much just broke down the pros and cons of leaving and staying, and I felt like the right decision was to stay. With the recruits we have coming in, with the players that we have coming back, we have a great chance of being a Final Four, if not a National Championship team.
Dime: Some projections had you going in the first round of the draft. What part did that play in drawing you towards the NBA?
TB: Well yeah, definitely. Where I’m positioned in this year’s draft, compared to where I can potentially be in next year’s draft, I felt like it was better for me to come back and improve, get stronger, and make a bigger run in the NCAA Tournament. Losing in the first game was tough. Obviously it was a big bust for me because I didn’t have the type of exposure that I could have been getting since I wasn’t playing. Next year will give me another chance to show what I have.
Dime: Do you plan on leaving school for the NBA if you have another good year next season?
TB: If I have a great season, and we go far, I probably will lean towards coming out. I can’t really speak on that right now, it’s too early. But I definitely will look into it and my coaches will help me look into it because they understand the type of situation I’m in.
Dime: What did your parents say throughout this process?
TB: Just making sure I was a first round pick. They were afraid that I wouldn’t be a first round pick and that’s kind of hard, to go into the NBA as a second round pick and make a big impact right away. They just felt like it was safer for me to come back and get another year of education.
Dime: Whom did you consult specifically within the NBA to find out where you might get picked in this year’s draft?
TB: The coaches and I, we had talked to the NBA Advisory Committee. I’m not really allowed to say much about what they had to say. But besides them, Coach Beilein had got some information from a couple GMs, I personally know Jordan Dumars and Joe Dumars â€“ I had talked to him a couple of times.
Dime: What did you think of what the media and fans were saying about whether you should stay or go?
TB: Sometimes I was looking at that stuff, but it’s just a lot of negativity. So I just tried to stay away from the social networking and Internet blogs and worry about more important things.
Dime: Let’s talk a little bit about this past season. Before the season started, you told me you would average 17 points and 10 assists per game. Obviously you came up a little short with 14.8 and 4.6, but those numbers aren’t too shabby. How do you think you played?
TB: I still think I played pretty well this year (laughs). I was obviously disappointed in our last loss. I feel like I could’ve done more for the team. With this being my first year, I wasn’t already comfortable yet out there, I didn’t really know what to expect a lot of the time with road games and things like that.
Dime: When you found out the seeding for the tournament on Selection Sunday, what was the team’s mindset? Confident? Happy with your opponent?
TB: We pretty much were ready for whatever. We were happy that we had Ohio â€“ well, I was because I know a lot of players on the team. I played with a few of them in Ohio, so I knew it was going to be a fun experience and a good game.
Dime: When you guys were down to Ohio late in that first round NCAA game, what sort of things were said in the team huddle to keep everyone focused? I assume some of you were shocked that you were losing.
TB: The captains were just saying it’s all or nothing now. One of our goals was to get to the Final Four this past year. We knew that it would be devastating if we lost that game. I think we did leave it out there on the court. I think they were just a better team that night. We didn’t hit shots that we usually hit all year.
Dime: What parts of your game are you going to work on to improve over the summer?
TB: Really my explosion. My first step can get quicker. I can clean up some of my decision making sometimes â€“ I get lackadaisical and bored out there sometimes and it backfires on me. Also, developing my lower body to add to that explosion. And on-ball defense, I feel like I can really improve on-ball defense and be a big defensive key for our team next year.
Dime: Who was the toughest person for you to cover this season?
TB: Probably [Purdue point guard] Lewis Jackson, because he was so small. He really wasn’t a scoring guard, but right when you think he wasn’t scoring, or wasn’t going to shoot it, he would just go and get to the cup and score because he was so quick.
Dime: By the end of the season you went from incoming freshman guard to team leader production-wise. Was that transition hard or awkward for some of your older teammates?
TB: It was natural. We really didn’t have any selfish attitudes. Everyone accepted their role and who was going to do what in certain situations. Nobody really cared about me being the leading scorer and assist man. All we wanted to do was win games.
Dime: Any freshman hazing?
TB: Fortunately I did not get hazed. A couple of the freshman did but I didn’t. Some of the seniors got Carlton Brundidge and Sai Tummala to dance in front of some people early on in the season. But I didn’t go for it. They tricked them. They said every person had to dance, we’ve been doing it every year. So they got up and did it but afterwards they told them that they were lied to. But I didn’t fall for the joke.
Dime: No bringing water to guys after practice or cleaning up?
TB: We had to get the chairs after walkthrough on gamedays, but that’s really about it. But I’ll be tougher on the freshman next year.
Dime: I’m sure you grew into a mini-celebrity on campus after the season you had. How did it feel to be treated like that? Did the girls flock to you? Kids offering to do your homework?
TB: Not really (laughs). But I’m pretty used to it by now. I go through it every single day. I understand that my image here on campus has blown up over the last year. But I’m not at the homework level yet. I’m trying to get there, but I’m not yet.
Dime: Did you fill out a bracket for the tournament? Who were you rooting for after you got eliminated?
TB: No bracket for me. I just didn’t feel like it. But I wanted to get to the end of the bracket. I really didn’t watch a lot of games until the Elite Eight. When Ohio State got to the Final Four, I wasn’t really rooting for them but I honestly thought they were going to win it all. But once Kentucky and Kansas got to the championship game, I knew Kentucky just had a little too much talent.
Dime: Everyone knows that you and Jared Sullinger are close. How was it to finally play against him on a big stage? Michigan and Ohio State is obviously a crazy rivalry.
TB: It was weird. I haven’t really played against Jared a lot. But it was great experience for not only me, but our families, seeing us grow up and playing together. But that was great.
Did he make the right choice by coming back to school?
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