We recently got a chance to check out Trey Burke prepping for the NBA Draft at his alma mater, Northland HS in Columbus. He was fresh off of the plane from finishing up his final exams in Ann Arbor, but made time for us to get a late workout in with longtime trainer Anthony Rhodman of In God’s Image.
We’ve got a full recap of the workout over at SLAMonline, but here’s the entire interview with Trey after the workout, touching on what motivates him, what he’s looking to improve on, and what he has learned from Chris Paul.
CityLeagueHoops: What are the things you’re really looking to focus on during the pre-draft process?
Trey Burke: 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. 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.
CLH: You talked about getting stronger and it’s obvious that you have already been working on it based on the fact that you gained nearly 30 pounds over the last three years. Talk about your passion in the weight room a little bit.
TB: I knew that it was going to be an important area for my growth as a player. Once I got to Michigan, I was still small…and I still am, in my opinion. I just started taking the weight room more seriously. I developed a great relationship with Jon Sanderson, our strength coach. This past off-season, he did a phenomenal job of focusing on my lower body. My hamstrings, my quads, calves, and just trying to make me a more explosive athlete. I think that helped me a lot this past season. My freshman year I was fast, but I wasn’t as quick as I was this past year. My sophomore year, I felt the difference. Though we were playing a D-2 team, I could tell the difference in my game. I’m trying to take it to another level this time around because I”m playing with the best athletes in the world.
CLH: Ever since the first time I saw you, you were able to create your own shot on just about anyone. However, it took some time for your point guard skills to develop the way they have. How did you take your assist to turnover ratio through the roof and mature as a lead guard?
TB: I took that real seriously as well. I didn’t like my turnover numbers as a freshman. I think that I averaged around 3 turnovers per game. 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. 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 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.
A lot of people ask me how I got my assist to turnover ratio where it was it and it was one thing: I was in the gym. I was in the gym a lot with my point guard coach and I played at my own pace. I didn’t let anyone speed me up and I knew my options, so I think that was my biggest area of growth.
CLH: I certainly agree with you about that. Speaking of Chris Paul, you were at the CP3 camp this summer and got to learn a lot from him hands on. What was the most important thing you learned from him?
TB: The most important thing was just knowing my options and setting everything up. 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. 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.
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 Kobe’s and LeBron’s 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.
CLH: Over the years, you’ve been a victim to the critics both in Ohio and nationally. First it was that you weren’t big enough, then it was that you weren’t strong enough, then it was that you weren’t a good enough point guard, yet you constantly prove everyone wrong. What is it that drives you?
TB: You just said it. The critics drive me. When I hear stuff like that, it puts a chip on my shoulder. Growing up I was never a heralded recruit, but I just loved the game so much that I continued to work. I was always playing up and playing against bigger or older opponents. 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.
CLH: Point guard play aside, what would you say your next biggest improvement was at Michigan?
TB: Definitely being a leader and that’s not a part of basketball at all. Just being a vocal leader on the court. My freshman year, I was more of a leader by example. My teammates saw me as a leader based on the way I played, as well as the heart and passion I played with. My sophomore year, I knew it was important for my for my team to hear my voice and to be the captain out there. It was important for me to give instructions when the freshman didn’t know what they were doing. I know going into the league now that I can’t just go in and be the leader right away, but I hope to eventually work my way into being a leader in the NBA. Two years down the road, I hope to be the leader of the team and that all starts with getting the respect of the vets by showing them that I’m really willing to work hard and win.
CLH: Now looking back on it, you obviously made the right decision not entering the draft last year. But you have to tell me, how hard was it not entering last year when you probably would have been a first round pick?
TB: It was incredibly difficult. 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. 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.