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April 14, 2013When the Michigan basketball team was upset by Ohio in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, point guard Trey Burke vowed to come back to Ann Arbor and do something special.
A year later, the Wolverines nearly knocked off Louisville in the National Championship Game, and Burke took the college basketball world by storm, winning the AP National Player Of The Year, the John Wooden Award, the Oscar Robertson Trophy and the Naismith Award, all given to the country's best player.
Burke was a consensus All-American, the Big Ten Player Of The Year and the catalyst for Michigan's most exciting season in two decades.
A year after Burke announced his return, his goals had obviously been achieved, with flying colors.
And now, he feels it is time to move on. Burke announced that he will enter the 2013 NBA Draft during a press conference Sunday afternoon, ending his magnificent two-year Michigan career.
"After talking it over with my parents, coaching staff and the ones that I trust the most and have my best interests in mind, I have decided to declare for the NBA Draft and forego my last two seasons here at the University of Michigan," he said. "It has always been a dream for me to play in the NBA, growing up as a kid and having the desire to have an NBA career. Now that it is here, I am definitely fortunate and blessed."
The entire Michigan team and its coaching staff were on hand at Crisler Arena for the announcement, lending support to Burke and his decision.
At the press conference, Michigan coach John Beilein reminisced about Burke's impact on the program, coming in as a freshman to replace former point guard Darius Morris, who also left for the NBA after two seasons.
"He certainly came it at an important time, after Darius Morris had gone pro and we didn't have a true point guard," Beilein said. "It's like going into a season without a quarterback. Little did we know that he would provide such great leadership and talent at such an early age. He filled a great void and did it as well as anyone who's ever been here. He was a huge part of the success we have had.
"It is going to be very difficult to replace him, because of the things he brought to the game for us. He brought an incredible competitive edge. John Wooden called it competitive greatness, and he brought that to our team. Forget about the position. When these freshmen came in this year, and they were seeing how hard Trey and everyone worked, the coaches didn't have to tell them to work hard. They saw it right in front of them. The position is always a difficult one. We feel really good about Spike Albrecht and what he has done, and we will have Derrick Walton coming in as a freshman. A lot of guys will have to step up in many ways, and we have no doubt that they will. Big footsteps to fill, but we feel strongly that we have the guys to do it."
Burke said that it "felt like the right time" to take the next step.
But he was also grateful for his time with the Wolverines and what he has learned from Beilein and Co.
"They started recruited me late. When I got here, I first realized how great of a person he was, not only as a coach," Burke said. "He held me accountable for some of the decision I made. It has allowed me to grow up and be the young man I am today. It was definitely a tough decision. After making it all the way to the national championship game, coming this close to winning, it's tough to forego your last two seasons at a great university. To not be able to play with these guys, not be able to be coached by these coaches, it was hard. But I feel like it was the best decision for me."
Beilein sees Burke's two-year ascension to the upper echelon of college basketball as a testament to the work he and his staff have done, building a program and developing talent.
"This young man was not highly recruited, not a top 50 player," Beilein said. "Those things were such a challenge to him, and an opportunity for him to show what was inside of him. You don't have that if you don't have LaVall Jordan and Bacari Alexander working with him every day. With the development program we have established right here, it's a tremendous problem to have when we have kids develop this quickly and have this opportunity.
"Trey has decided to take this opportunity in front of him, and it's all good. We want men to come here, unpack their bags, and if something like this opportunity comes up, then you can take it. But we want to make sure they have a chance at a degree or what Trey has now."