Trey Burke has had a lot thrown in his way throughout his short career. Unheralded coming out of high school, called too short to lead Michigan back to its first Final Four since the Fab Five* in college and then dogged with a poor Summer League performance and an early season injury to his finger that knocked him out until Nov. 20.
Excuse some fans for being a little unsure when trying to project where Burke was going to go and who he was going to be.
Not helping matters is the fact the Jazz are not exactly world beaters when it comes to grabbing the NBA's attention. For Burke to penetrate Rookie of the Year discussions and show why teams had him going as high as No. 2 in last year's NBA Draft, he would have to make a big scene to beat out Victor Oladipo and Michael Carter-Williams, two other point guards taken before him in the draft.
Burke had a lot to prove. And, in a short amount of time, Burke has begun to prove it to his draftmates and the rest of the NBA.
"As I said for the most of the year that he has been playing for us, he has continued to get better," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said after Burke's 30-point performance in Orlando. "His understanding of how he is not going to have one of his better performances and come back from that performance. Tonight I think was a great indicator. In the first half, he was going pretty decent but when we subbed and came back in the fourth quarter, I thought he did a tremendous job controlling the tempo for us today."
That statement came after Burke made a major bounceback, in more than a few ways.
On a two-game trip to Florida, Burke scored three points on 1-for-8 shooting in Miami and followed it up with a career-high 30 points and eight assists in a win in Orlando. Burke is averaging 13.8 points and 5.1 assists per game and is continuing to show growth and improvement in his game.
Especially from his last trip to Orlando where Burke averaged 8.8 points and 4.0 assists per game while shooting 24.1 percent from the floor. It was an awful week-long performance, but one that clearly no one needed to be worried about — Burke missed training camp as he completed negotiating his rookie deal.
"As a rookie, you always want to play well especially in Summer League when that's your first evaluation from everybody," Burke said. "Obviously, I didn't play the way I wanted to play or the way that I know I can play. It definitely motivated me to work harder and be ready when teh preseason came.
"Obviously you want to play good especially for me with the expectation I put in myself and from everybody else as well," Burke later said. "I feel like when I go out there and play freely and not thinking, I feel like I'm at my best. I was just going off the defense was giving me. I just tried to continue to get to my spots and hit that pull up."
Right now, it is hard to argue that Burke is not playing freely, or at the very least playing with much more confidence than he was then. He has thrust himself into the Rookie of the Year conversation and delivering on his promise from being drafted where he was drafted.
Burke has been through a lot already in his career coming back from the injury and fitting in with the Jazz. Utah is 9-13 with Burke in the lineup now. For a team with just 10 victories, that is pretty significant, it seems.
"We need everybody," Corbin said. "Where we are right now, we need everything that we have. Since he has been back, we've been able to play a little better because he is the point guard that we thought about coming into camp in being able to control the floor. He has been doing a great job getting better every night out there."
His coach and other coaches continue to offer platitudes and rave reviews for Burke. He certainly fits that mold of a scoring point guard who can get anywhere he wants most of the time. Burke is a guy that plays with a chip on his shoulder from being discounted for his size or whatever for so long. Everyone can see the fire he plays with.
And like always, Burke is trying to gain everyone's respect and fit in with his team as he tries to lead them to something more.
"Coming into this league as a rookie, you have to learn not only other guys respect, but your teammates' respect at first," Burke said. "I think I've done a godo job allowing my vets to teach me. You don't know everything when you come into this league, you have to find out through experience or find out through guys who already have experience. I'm doing a good job trying to listen to my vets and just to apply all the information that they give me."
The learning process continues for Burke. He continues to grow though and make his mark on this year's rookie class.