News of Trey Burke’s suspension for last Friday’s exhibition game caught both the media and fans by surprise, but within the confines of the Crisler Center it wasn’t so sudden. The punishment turned out to be the final consequence for a transgression that had taken place much earlier.
“It was a situation in the summer, so I’ve apologized a couple of times to (the team) about it, so we’ve moved on from it,” Burke explained. “I know with being a leader comes responsibility. I know that I made a mistake. I apologized to the team and they all forgave me about it. I told them it won’t happen again and I’m ready to move forward and continue to lead this team and make sure that it doesn’t happen with no one on this team.”
Few paths to leadership are blazed with zero missteps. Burke insists that that’s what this was… a misstep. The censure implemented by Beilein seems corroborate that characterization. That, though, doesn’t mean that the punishment didn’t make its mark.
“(Sitting out) was hard definitely,” said Burke. “At first I didn’t think it was going to be as hard, but once I got out there I wanted to play, so it was hard sitting there. But Spike (Albrecht) did a great job, the team played good, and I was able to cheer (them) on and just look at the game from a different perspective. So that was good.”
That enlightened view of this year’s team reiterated to Michigan’s floor general his prior belief that the balance between getting his own offense and setting up his teammates could be a consistently optimal.
“The best thing about it is I just play off what the defense gives me,” he stated. “A lot of the time the defense would show on the screen and then leave so I was able to get down the alley and score. Most of the time this year many teams are going to be in that gap, but we have options this year so I can hit that guy and we’re able to hit the outside shot. So it’s not really a read for myself, it’s a read for the defense for how their playing. It’s just adjustments throughout the game that we’re going to have to make.”
Burke’s 16 points and eight assists Tuesday exemplified the kind of balance that could be routine this season. Unlike last year, it shouldn’t be as easy to stymie the Wolverines’ offensive attack by smothering him on the pick & roll.
Said Burke, “like I told the team today, I think the biggest thing that we had trouble with last year is getting out to a good start and making the first punch. Last year a lot of teams would come out and get a good lead, but now that we have more options and guys that can hit shots. I think the biggest thing is continuing to talk to the team and being a leader out there and telling everyone to keep shooting because it’s open and we have many more options this year. If a guy is getting denied in the corner, somebody else is going to be open. If I’m getting doubled off the pick & roll, somebody is going to be open. “
“Last year the offense was kind of stagnant a lot, and though these are exhibition games you can kind of just tell that you’ve got Nik Stauskas coming off the bench ready to shoot and it’s going in. You’ve got Matt Vogrich… another shooter. Obviously Tim’s scoring ability. Mitch McGary coming off the bench getting us six to seven extra possessions and being able to finish. Jordan Morgan being able to hit that jump shot. Being on the bench I was able to see that from a different perspective and see that it’s going to be pretty hard to guard us this year as long as we make the right play and make adjustments.”
If the exhibition games are any indication one of the adjustments will be getting the ball to the young offensive threats with increasing frequency.
“G-Rob he shocked me today with his shooting,” stated Burke regarding Robinson III’s 17 point outburst (which included 3/5 from long range). “I knew he was a good shooter, but he wasn’t missing anything. So with G-Rob, Nik, and Vogrich we’re more flexible. And like I said at the beginning of the year we’re able to get out into transition more than we were last year.”
“In transition obviously we can get up and down. Sometimes last year I’d get sped up and we’d get sped up as a team. This year I feel like we’re a little more comfortable. With teams like Arkansas that pressure a lot… those are the type of games where we’re going to have to get sped up a little bit, but not sped up to their pace. It’s just a matter of how the defense is playing us. We looked good tonight. We looked patient and poised out there."
And one of the biggest factors in keeping Burke and in turn the team looking good is the presence of his new relief pitcher, Spike Albrecht.
" He has a really high I.Q., can hit the open jump shot," Burke said. "Something I picked up on him is he is able to get deep into the paint where the defense collapses in on him and he is able to find the open man. I have no doubt in my mind that we can play together out there or that he can come in and give me a breather and contribute right off the rip. Like I said, (he has) a really high I.Q. and he makes the right play. He is going to be okay.”