Men's basketball: Burke, teammates mull NBA

By ASSOCIATED PRESS  • 
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After falling just short of a national title in a loss to Louisville on Monday night, Trey Burke was asked about his relationship with Michigan coach John Beilein.

“The respect I have for Coach Beilein is at an all-time high, and it will always be,” Burke said. “Throughout my college career, throughout whatever my opportunities are after college, he’s just the guy that you’ll respect, not only on the court, but off the court. He’s the guy that’s going to hold you accountable for all your actions, and he’s going to help you grow up as a man.”

It was hard to escape the sense of finality in Burke’s comments, and although the sophomore point guard said he will take his time before deciding whether to leave for the NBA, Michigan’s future is uncertain after the 82-76 loss in the NCAA championship game.

Burke, the Associated Press national player of the year, is an obvious candidate to turn pro after considering doing it last year, and the Wolverines’ tournament run leaves a few other players with decisions to make, too. Once the dust settles from all that, it will be easier to evaluate Michigan’s chances of another Final Four run next season. This was the team’s first since 1993, and it gave the school a chance to take pride in its basketball team again.

“A lot of people didn’t expect us to even get this far,” said Burke, a Northland graduate. “A lot of people didn’t expect us to even get past the second round. You know, we fought. We fought all the way up to this point.”

Burke’s long three-pointer in the final seconds forced overtime in a regional semifinal game against Kansas, and then Michigan routed Florida and edged Syracuse to reach the title game.

The Wolverines did all this with a young team. Burke is a sophomore and Tim Hardaway Jr. is a junior, but Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas are all freshmen, and at the Final Four, two other freshmen emerged: Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert of Pickerington Central.

The future could be bright even if Burke leaves, but Hardaway, Robinson and McGary could test the NBA waters, too.

This was Beilein’s sixth season at Michigan, and the team has steadily improved in each of the past three. The Wolverines made the NCAA Tournament in 2011 and won a game there, then they tied for their first Big Ten title since 1986 last year. This Final Four run brought basketball back to the forefront at the football-crazy school and gives the program a major opportunity going forward.

It will be harder to build on this if several players turn pro, but Michigan kept improving despite the departure of standout guard Darius Morris following the 2010-11 season. After performing brilliantly in so many big games over the past month, the Wolverines have announced their return to national prominence.

“We are proud of each other, and we worked extremely hard all year to get to this point,” Stauskas said. “Just because we lost this game we don’t want to hang our heads that low. Obviously this is a tough loss to swallow, but we’re going to move on from this and get better.”

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