Column: Trey Burke's reaching rare territory, and Michigan fans would be wise to soak it all in
"I know that if I get the chance to play," Burke explained, "I can get the job done."
Fifteen or so reporters stood next to a kid who was less than five months out of high school, questioning his readiness, his ability and his poise.
"Will you be able to replace as Darius Morris?"
"Can you physically handle the game at this level?"
"What type of player are you?"
"Can you get Michigan back to the NCAA tournament?"
"Can you start right away?"
Every question came, and Burke never missed stride. Reporters came in firing, Burke offered them answers -- each one more confident than the next. He knew he could play at this level, he knew he could be great.
He didn't care what anyone else thought, it was only a matter of time before they figured it out for themselves.
It was only natural to question Burke's credentials as an unheralded prospect less than two years ago. These were valid concerns.
Michigan had just lost a record-setting point guard to the NBA, it was on the verge of losing momentum if the hole wasn't filled, and most believed there was no way this undersized Columbus transplant could make people completely forget about what Morris had done less than a year earlier.
We were all idiots.
Michigan's 6-foot-1 point guard (don't call him 6-foot, he'll correct you) has been a hurricane dressed as a basketball player over the past year and a half for John Beilein's program.
He's not without his flaws, to be sure. But at this point, if you're looking for weaknesses, you're just nitpicking.
It's taken him just 61 games to break the 1,000-point barrier. He's on pace to finish with the single-best assist season in program history and he very well may end up as both a Big Ten and national player of the year.
He has a chance at becoming the first Big Ten player since Magic Johnson to average 17 points and 7 assists in a season. He's recognized everywhere, he gets Twitter shoutouts from Chris Paul and his No. 3 jersey seems a lot more popular than anything else in the building.
A legitimate superstar for a program that went more than a decade without serious national star power, Burke has already carved out a place for himself in Michigan basketball history that will likely be remembered for a long time.
Thanks in large part to Burke, Michigan has stayed in the national college basketball conversation all season -- even when it struggled. No matter what you think of the Wolverines, there's a certain level of respect commanded by the team because of the guy dribbling the ball.
A tenacious competitor, a joy to watch, a breath of fresh air for a program in need of a star -- Burke's been all of the above for Michigan.
So much so that his on-court production seems to have turned into an old routine.
Michigan fans expect Burke to score 20 every night. They expect him to approach 10 assists and they expect him to never turn the ball over.
When he makes a questionable play, it gets magnified to incredible lengths -- basically because those mistakes are so few and far between.
Burke still hasn't won a tournament game, he's got a sub-par record against Ohio State and how Michigan finishes this season will go a long way in shaping his overall legacy as a college player.
But make no mistake, he's made an impact. From here on out, every time Michigan signs a point guard, the question will be: "Can he get to Trey Burke's level?"
They don't have senior day ceremonies for sophomores, even if the modern elite college player never makes it that far.
Burke told the NBA no last season, though odds are he won't be making the same call this spring. His draft stock has skyrocketed this season, and most believe he'll be a fringe lottery pick if he decides to leave.
There's at least a decent chance Burke's days as a Michigan basketball player are winding down, like it or not.
But he's still got at least a few more weeks left to dazzle, at least two more home games to amaze and at least one more shot at March Madness glory.
Trey Burke got his chance to play, and he never blinked.
You may only have a few more chances to watch him in a Michigan uniform.
You'd be wise to do the same.
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