Burke leaving Michigan early for NBA draft

ANN ARBOR, MICH. (AP) - The time was right for Trey Burke.

The Michigan star made it official Sunday: He’s leaving the Wolverines to enter the NBA draft. The move came as no surprise after Burke was voted The Associated Press national player of the year and led Michigan to the NCAA title game as a sophomore.

Burke also considered going to the NBA a year ago, but he came back for another season. Now he departs with his stock seemingly peaking.

“I just felt like this was the best opportunity for me,” Burke said. “It’s an opportunity that I’ve always wanted.”

The 6-foot point guard averaged 18.6 points and 6.7 assists per game in 2012-13. He made perhaps the most memorable shot of the NCAA tournament, a long 3-pointer in the final seconds against Kansas that sent that regional semifinal to overtime.

Michigan made the Final Four for the first time since 1993, and in the championship game against Louisville, Burke scored 24 points in a losing effort.

Burke nearly left the Wolverines after his freshman season but decided to stay. Expectations were high at Michigan after his return, and the Wolverines lived up to them _ in part because Burke’s future never seemed to be a distraction.

“He came back with really a fire in his belly to improve his game,” coach John Beilein said. “He just went to work. There wasn’t one time that I felt that he was playing for the NBA and not playing for Michigan.”

Once the season ended, it would have been shocking if Burke came back again. The main question for Michigan is how many other players the Wolverines might lose. Junior Tim Hardaway Jr. and freshmen Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III are also considered candidates to turn pro.

Burke’s teammates were on hand for his announcement Sunday, but they weren’t available to reporters. The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft is April 28.

Burke didn’t need much time. His case was pretty clear cut.

“I really felt, knowing Trey the way I know him, that this decision was going to be an easy one for him,” Beilein said. “We have always wanted young men to come back with both feet in, and making sure that those other opportunities _ if they were there _ that he was ready for it. We felt, both ways, that this was his time.”

Burke took over as Michigan’s point guard as a freshman _ after Darius Morris had gone pro following his sophomore season. Now Michigan faces the same scenario. Incoming recruit Derrick Walton Jr. may have a chance to run the team right away, and Spike Albrecht _ who scored 17 points in the title game _ is also expected back after backing up Burke.

“A lot of our guys are going to have to step up, and we have no doubt that they will,” Beilein said. “There are big footsteps to fill, but we feel very strongly that we have the guys that can really assist us in that.”

Burke leaves after bringing Michigan back to heights the program hadn’t enjoyed in some time. In 2012, the Wolverines tied for their first regular-season Big Ten title since 1986.

After that, Burke decided to stick around for another year, and Michigan made it all the way to the national championship game.

“Last year, the advice I was getting, I didn’t really realize how true it would be until I came back,” Burke said. “It was a great decision.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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