Commentary

Burke breaks freshman assists mark

Point guard surpasses record held for more than 25 years by U-M great Gary Grant

Updated: March 2, 2012, 10:35 AM ET
By Michael Rothstein | WolverineNation

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Last month, Gary Grant's phone started going off. Text messages from friends were coming in, so were phone calls. The former Michigan star already knew all about Trey Burke from watching this year's Wolverines play.

But now his friends were on to Burke along with something else: Another of Grant's records at Michigan was likely to fall.

[+] EnlargeTrey Burke
Damen Jackson/Icon SMITrey Burke had five assists Thursday night against Illinois to go with his 21 points.
In 1984-85, Grant had 140 assists as a freshman, setting a record that held up -- until Thursday. With five assists against Illinois, Burke became the all-time freshman assist leader at Michigan, passing Grant to break his first record at Michigan with 143 assists and counting.

"He is more of a point guard at this stage right now than I was at mine," Grant told WolverineNation earlier this week from California. "I shared the ball with Antoine Joubert. Right now, he has that ball in his hands the whole time, getting that ball up the floor, which is putting a lot of pressure on him, but he's doing a great job handling that situation.

"I see him out there through the whole game. He's careful with his fouls, and he's doing a great job as a freshman. It's good to see. It's been a lot of years. They had a lot of guards, a lot of freshman guards coming through the program the last 20 years that were pretty good. But he stepped in right away and made a handprint on that position right off the bat."

When Darius Morris left Michigan for the NBA following last season, Michigan had no choice. It could have handed the ball to senior guard Stu Douglass to run the point but instead opted to let Douglass play more of a combination guard, leaving the Wolverines in the hands of a freshman.

Once Burke beat out Carlton Brundidge, it was his position to thrive in. Breaking a record, however, wasn't in the plan.

"I didn't know who had it," Burke said. "It really wasn't a goal. I knew that was a part of my game that was just natural, being able to get assists at the point guard position I've played my whole life.

"But it really wasn't a goal."

Burke didn't discover he was within reach of Grant's mark until his father, Benji, informed him last month when he was about 25 assists shy of Grant. Trey Burke processed the information and then went on his way.

He figured if he played well, those sorts of things would just happen.

"The record would obviously go to me if I break it, but my teammates are the ones who hit shots," Burke said. "There are a lot of games where I may have thrown a bad pass to my teammates and they still hit the shot."

He hasn't made many poor passes this season, however, as he has led Michigan to a bye in next week's Big Ten tournament, a sure NCAA tournament berth and a 22-8 record entering the final game of the regular season.

He's tied for the team lead in scoring at 14.5 a game (with Tim Hardaway Jr.) and also leads the Wolverines in assists.

As another one of Grant's records falls, he is somewhat comforted that he still has some other records -- for now.

Grant is still Michigan's all-time assist leader with 731 and all-time steals leader with 300.

"Twenty years is a long time," Grant said. "I still got something over there, right? So I'm still up there. But these individual years where people can come out and play well, I take my hat off to them, because it's a hard situation to stay healthy, play the right way, listen to your coach, don't get a big head, all that stuff.

"I don't see that in (Burke) at all. I see a guy grounded; he isn't going to talk junk. If he makes a mistake, he's going to get back on the defensive end and try to get it back. I like him as a player."

That the record passes from one Ohio native to another is merely a bonus for Grant, who is now helping run youth basketball leagues and camps in California.

"That's fine with me," Grant said. "We keep it in Ohio and 20 years later, down the road, another guy from Ohio will come and get that record as well. As long as we keep getting great players from Ohio to not go to Ohio State but keep going to Michigan and play for Michigan and do well, we would love that every day."

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. He can be reached at michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com or on Twitter @mikerothstein.

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