In his first year of college ball this player averaged 14.8 points, 5.9 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game, and took home hardware as the best freshman in the toughest conference that year. But instead of going to the NBA, he opted to return for his sophomore season in search of a national title. He measures in at just 6'0" and weighs 175 lbs.
In his first year of college ball this player averaged 14.8 points, 4.6 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game, and took home hardware as the best freshman in the toughest conference that year. But instead of going to the NBA, he opted to return for his sophomore season in search of a national title. He measures in at just 5'11" and weighs 180 lbs.
The two examples above are pretty much identical, and hopefully it was clear enough (without looking up the stats) that at least one of these represents Michigan's soon-to-be-sophomore point guard Trey Burke (he's No. 2), who blew us all away by deciding to come back to Ann Arbor for another season. But mystery player No. 1, and what he managed to accomplish by coming back to college for a second year, is the ultimate key here, and stands as the single greatest proof that Trey Burke can fly up draft boards with a strong sophomore campaign.
The identity of No. 1 after the jump...
You might know the first player as NBA superstar Chris Paul out of Wake Forest, the man who went No. 4 overall to the New Orleans Hornets in 2005. Interestingly enough, Paul did so after a sophomore season in which he actually shot worse from the field (from 49.6% to 45.1%), barely upped his scoring average (14.8 to 15.2), had a lower ORating (125.0 to 122.9), and even turned the ball over more frequently (2.6 TO/game to 2.8). By some measures, you could even say Paul regressed in year two.
The questions about Paul's frame and whether he'd be able to hold up in the NBA over time were very real, but his abundance of talent, elite court vision, and veteran's understanding of how to use his lack of size to his advantage overshadowed virtually every red flag out there.
For Burke, things aren't that much different. Being considered a fringe first round prospect after one year equates to absolutely nothing now that he's back for another. Even by turning in a comparable season statistically you have to imagine that Burke's name will be firmly locked into the first round by this time next year.
The added exposure he'll receive from heading into a season unanimously viewed as one of the best in the sport, when he was an unknown commodity as a freshman, cannot be overstated in the least. Preseason accolades. Award watch lists. Magazine covers. All that stuff adds up real quick. Talent is still important, sure, but the marketing of that talent plays a bigger role than some realize in today's game.
None of this is to say that Trey Burke is automatically the next Chris Paul. It's merely to suggest that the parallels between the two at each point in their respective careers give us clear evidence that Burke can be. The main difference between the pair is that Paul entered college as the No. 9 prospect in America (Scout.com), while Burke was 85 spots higher at No. 94. Burke wasted little time showing people that he was ridiculously overlooked as a prep player, but fully needed his stellar freshman season to prove this much to NBA brass and decision-makers. Paul, however, didn't.
Paul stayed for another year to squash concerns about his size and show that he was a top ten pick worthy of being handed the keys to an NBA franchise right away. Burke came back to also eliminate concerns over his height (which are largely dependent on the odd perception of being 5-foot-anything as being an automatic red flag), and also to prove that he's worthy of being a first round lock that an NBA team will gladly bring along slowly as a future starter.
It's easy to fall into the ignorant trap of thinking that Burke returning to school is going to end up costing the kid in the long run. In truth, when you eliminate the perception of each player based on his high school ranking, there's really not much of a difference between Paul and Burke after one year of college basketball. Do you really believe that another season filled with clutch shots, nifty passes, and 29-foot bombs from the outside is somehow going to make Burke less desirable to NBA teams? Please. Burke is either going to stagnate and stay exactly where he is now, or climb at a rate tied directly to his level of exposure and statistical production. There's simply not a fall-off-the-cliff scenario for a player this talented.
We know Burke still has plenty to prove in year two before anyone grows the balls to slot him as lottery pick, but he's absolutely in the mix, much like Paul was heading into his own second season. And with more talent on the inside to feed the ball to, it's plausible that Burke's assist numbers will be on the rise, representing a scenario that should only further entice NBA scouts and general managers.
The kid came back to Michigan to compete for a national championship, and from what we've seen thus far it will be impossible to count him out. But despite what you might have heard, Burke's draft stock can absolutely soar with a strong sophomore season. And we have a current NBA All-Star to thank for providing the blueprint for why it might just happen.