The past month of being wined, dined and dissected by a handful of NBA teams at the top of the draft board reminded Trey Burke of being recruited as a point guard at Northland High School.
Coaches at some of the nation’s top college programs liked his game, but enough to offer him a scholarship? Many passed.
The pros like his game, too. But enough to draft him sooner rather than later on Thursday night?
“There are always going to be critics out there saying you can’t do certain things,” Burke said. “I try not to pay attention to it and just continue to try to prove them wrong.
“I proved them wrong going into college. I know I can do the same going into the NBA.”
Burke, the consensus national player of the year last season, was considered a sure lottery pick as soon as he announced in April that he would forgo his final two seasons at Michigan.
Early speculation was that he could go as high as No. 2. Lately, however, scouts’ opinions of him have split, with some concerned that his lack of size and elite athleticism could prevent from developing into a player worthy of that high of a selection.
Burke measured 6 feet 11/4 inches at the predraft combine last month and said he now weighs 188 pounds, as heavy as he ever has been. He said he does not want to get “bulked up” but does want to strengthen his lower body so he can stand his ground against bigger, stronger NBA guards.
“Being undersized, you have to make up for that with your intelligence, your basketball IQ, and (by) playing to your talent, not trying to be somebody you’re not,” said Memphis Grizzlies and former Ohio State point guard Mike Conley Jr., who was a half-inch shorter and 12 pounds lighter than Burke when he was taken fourth overall in the 2007 draft.
“If somebody tells you you’re too small, don’t try to gain 35 pounds and become a back-down point guard. Don’t be afraid to be yourself regardless of what people might be saying about you.”
ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford had NBA scouts and general managers rank 50 players on a scale of one to 10. Burke ranked ninth, and second among point guards behind C.J. McCollum of Lehigh.
“While some believe he’ll be a star, others think he’s going to be just an average player at the next level,” Ford wrote.
Burke has taken an unconventional path to the draft, hiring his father, Benji, as his agent and opting to train in Columbus with his longtime personal trainer, Anthony Rhodman, rather than with other prospects at one of the facilities across the country that cater to that clientele.
Burke said he trusts his father “more than anybody” to handle his financial interests. Benji, who works for cousin Alonzo Shavers’ representation agency, Intimate Sports Concepts, said a player’s first NBA contract is “not a big deal” because “it’s not something you have to negotiate.” Salaries for all first-round picks are predetermined according to draft position by the collective-bargaining agreement between the league and players association.
Similarly, Burke trusted Rhodman to prepare him physically for workouts, and hired former NBA assistant Phil Hubbard, also a former Michigan player, to prepare him for what he would be asked to do in them.
Befitting his status as a high pick, Burke worked out for only four teams: Orlando, Phoenix, New Orleans and Sacramento, which have the second, fifth, sixth and seventh picks, respectively. He met with Detroit on Friday but did not work out.
How Burke worked out also was unconventional — on his own rather than in a group, as is the norm for NBA teams who would have liked to have seen him against other top prospects such as McCollum, Michael Carter-Williams of Syracuse and Shane Larkin of the University of Miami.
It was a calculated move but one not unusual for a player some see as the best at his position.
“(The teams) all asked me what my thoughts were on working out by myself, but I don’t think they held it against me,” Burke said.
“At the end of the day, I just felt I wouldn’t gain anything by working out with the other guys, that they have everything to gain and I have pretty much everything to lose. It’s just a business move.”
Thursday night, it’s the teams’ turn. How soon will one move on Burke?