Previous Workouts: Victor Oladipo
After falling short to Louisville in the National Championship game against Louisville, Trey Burke was right back at it in the gym. He flew back to his hometown of Columbus, OH, and shot straight to his old high school (Northland), where he gave SLAMonline an exclusive look at his workout with his long-time trainer Anthony Rhodman of In God’s Image.
The location offered the charming limitations that you’ll only find in a city league gym—having to mop the floor multiple times to alleviate slippage; guesstimating where the NBA three-point line is; and watching yourself before you run into the wall that was thisclose to where the court ends. Burke went through a grueling workout where everything was started six years ago as a freshman in high school.
“The critics drive me. When I hear stuff like that, it puts a chip on my shoulder,” Burke said. “Growing up I was never a heralded recruit, but I just loved the game so much that I continued to work. When I hear stuff like, ‘Trey Burke is not going to be any good in college’ or ‘Trey Burke won’t be any good in the NBA,’ it really motivates me and makes me work harder. I know I can prove them wrong. I have exceeded a lot of people’s expectations and I constantly play with a chip on my shoulder. I just love the game that much.”
Rhodman had Trey went through just about every drill with the rock in his hands that you could imagine. He went dribbled on a stabilization pod, zig-zagged between chairs, was pulled back by strength bands, and flew through ladders with two balls in his hands. He showcased an incredibly low, quick handle that allowed him to explode through the cones no matter what dribbling sequence was demanded of him. If for some reason he messed up during a drill, it was mandatory that he start over. It was clear that the trainer and player had a relationship that was built over time, each knowing how to get the most of one and other.
Since the two were just doing an on-court workout, we weren’t able to see any of the strength training that Burke has went through. Even though he has gained 30 pounds over the last three years, the 20-year-old still understands that he must get stronger to compete with the grown men that he’ll face on a nightly basis in the League.
“The biggest thing for me is just getting stronger physically, especially in my lower body. I’m just trying get more explosive and get that extra pop because I know that’s going to be important for me with my size at the next level,” he said. “I’m just looking to become more of an explosive athlete. I want to get a lot reps on my shot and am trying to stay consistent, too.”
Based on the way that he shot the ball throughout his workout, the consistency already appeared to be there on his J. Trey exhibited great lift and an effortless release on his jumper with range extending well beyond the NBA three-point line. He really got to that second level and showed that he’s going to be able to pull up at the drop of a dime when he’s unable to make it all the way to the tin. Burke clearly brought his game to a new level after spurning the NBA last May to return to Michigan.
“Really, it was one of the more difficult decisions in my life because as a 19-year-old kid with the chance to experience your lifelong goal, you want to see where those opportunities will take you. Having the mindset that I have, a lot of people doubted me last year, but I knew I could work my way into the first round if I was able to play consistently,” an ever-so-honest Burke admitted of his decision to return to the Wolverines. “When you have your coaching staff and your parents telling you to really think it over and come back to school in order to grow both physically and mentally, you don’t really want to hear that. You want to live your dream. As you said, it was obviously the best decision and it has paid off.”
What we couldn’t see in the workout was the way that Trey evolved his skills as a point guard. Known as more of a scoring lead guard, Burke maintained his ability to get buckets while also creating at an exceptional rate for his teammates during his second go-around at Michigan. His assists jumped nearly 3 per game in his sophomore season and his assist-to-turnover ratio was nearly 3:1. This wasn’t something that came in the countless hours that he spent in the gym, but something that he learned from others. It was once the Columbus native sat back and became a student of the game that he truly understood the nuances of being a point guard at the highest level.
“I knew that I was young, but I also knew that I have a lot of room to grow and that was another area that I really wanted to grow in. I think that all came with watching film and becoming a student of the game,” Burke explained. “When I was growing up, I would watch games just to see who won and for the excitement. Now when I watch a game, I’m trying to study my defender, take different things from Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Rondo, and those type of guys. What I see more than anything out of those guys is that they play at their own pace and don’t allow anyone to speed them up.”
There was plenty of opportunity for Burke to learn from Paul, too. He spent the summer at the CP3 Elite Guard Camp and was able to learn from the last small guard who was drafted in the top-five, right where Trey is projected in this year’s NBA Draft.
“Seeing the game before it actually happens is the main thing that I took away from Chris Paul. He knows his options before he comes off of that pick and roll. It’s kind of hard to explain, but when you see the elite small point guards come off screens, they’re not looking for what’s open,” Burke said. “They’re usually looking for their next option, whether it be shooting, getting to the paint or passing. Then once you get to the paint, that opens up a new set of options. I just tried to take as much as possible from the camp and learn as much as possible while I was with him.”
He had to throw in one last tip that the League’s best point gave him that clearly was etched his mind, too.
“I asked him what his biggest concern was coming into the NBA out of college and he told me that once you stop viewing the Kobes and LeBrons as superstars and view them as your peers, then that allows you to compete right there with them. I think that’s what I’m going to have to do when I go up against a Russell Westbrook. I have to look at him as one of my peers and just compete.”
With the grind, mentality and skillset that he has, it’s likely that CP3 will be adding Trey Burke’s name to the list of stars that he gives the next wave of high school and college point guards on the come up to treat as just another one of the guys.