One year ago around this time, Trey Burke was making one of the most important decisions of his life: should he stay at Michigan for another year and build off of his freshmen year successes, or should he enter the 2012 NBA Draft? After much deliberation and speculation, Burke ultimately decided to play one more season of college ball and, in case you didn’t hear, it worked out pretty well for him. Named the 2013 Naismith College Player of the Year, and the recipient of the Wooden Award, Burke led his upstart Wolverines to the brink of a national title with his savvy passing abilities, unflappable decision-making, and one, unforgettable shot. As a result, Burke now finds himself as one of the most heavily-discussed players in this draft class, and a sure lottery selection, with most projections placing him anywhere from the No. 2 overall pick to the eighth slot. Picking up some hardware, playing for the title, and boosting your stock by about 20 spots? Sounds like he made the right choice.
We caught up with Burke at the Champs Sports in Times Square, making a pre-draft appearance to greet his New York faithful. As the draft draws closer, we talked with Burke about what his transition process into the NBA has been like, his relationship with LeBron and Chris Paul, and what the dynamic point guard will be sporting on the big night.
Interview by Gus Turner
Is there anything in your life that you could compare this pre-draft process to with all your appearances, and workouts, and how hectic it's been? Has it been difficult for you to keep your head above the water during all this?
A little bit. I think the recruiting process was similar to this process. Y'know, it's a lot of adjustment and a lot of change. There's a process to it, you just gotta get used to it. But I'm trying my hardest. It's my rookie year and I'm looking forward to it, and I'm having a good time with the whole process.
Is there anyone who you've reached out to or who has reached out to you for guidance during all this?
Chris Paul is a guy that I text on different occasions during the season. I was texting him when we were in Atlanta for the Final Four, and he was just letting me know that he was rooting for me, and just giving me certain tips for the next level. LeBron, as well. LeBron texted me after the Louisville game and he let me know that I had a heck of a year, and that I didn't have to hang my head, and I think that was good for me to hear from guys at the next level.
Speaking of your time at Michigan, how difficult was it for you to tell guys like Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III and everyone else who was staying that you were leaving, especially with how far you guys advanced this past season? What was their reaction?
LeBron texted me after the Louisville game, he let me know that I had a heck of a year and that I didn't have to hang my head.
I think it was difficult, but at the same time it was the right decision, they understood my decision, and they that it was what was best for me. I think the timing was right.
What was the biggest takeaway for you then during your time at Michigan?
Learning about myself off-the-court and making the right decisions. Just being disciplined. There's a lot of trials and tribulations at Michigan and I'm sure there will be some here at this level. So, just trying to overcome adversity and get better each and every day.
You've had to answer a lot of questions about your height during this process. What in the past have you done to overcome that obstacle? Height isn't really something that you have the power to change, so what other parts of your game have you tried to make better around that?
Being more of a pest on the defensive end. I think I'm a really good defender, and I'm underrated on the defensive end. So just trying to show that I can play defense and make plays on that side of the court. And just showing explosion on the offensive end. Changing speeds and having that pop in my game. And I think that's just going to come along. The older I get, the better I get at things like that. So just trying to show that I'm a quick athlete.
So what are the qualities make you such a highly rated point guard in this draft?
I would say it's because of my leadership abilities and that I'm a playmaker. I would say my leadership abilities because that's something that I've always had since I was a little kid, along with my winning mentality. I'm competitive. So as long as I keep that I think I can be good.
The NBA Draft has been known for its fair share of terrible fashion decisions, but you were recently called the most stylish player in the draft by GQ. What are you gonna be rocking on Thursday night?
I'm wearing a light blue suit, and the shirt is tan and blue, checkered. Then I've got a gold tie and some brown shoes. The suit that I chose is a bright color so I think it's gonna stick out.
Glad to hear you didn't go with D-Wade's Versace jacket.
[Laughs.] Nah, nah, nah. I kept it simple.