ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Trey Burke is taking his talents to the NBA.
Burke made the worst-kept secret in basketball official Sunday when he announced at the Crisler Center that he’s giving up his last two seasons of eligibility at Michigan.
“After talking it over with my coaches and my parents and the people that I trust the most, I’ve decided to declare for the 2013 NBA Draft,” he said. “It has always been my dream to play in the NBA, and I think this is the time to do it.”
Burke was the consensus national player of the year, so the decision wasn’t a surprise.
“We are 100 percent behind Trey’s decision,” coach John Beilein said. “We are extremely proud of what this young man has achieved, and we believe he’s ready to take this next step.
“He has helped Michigan achieve things that we haven’t done in 20 years. He’s going to go down with the best of the best at Michigan.”
Burke considered leaving after his freshman season, which saw him lead Michigan to a share of the Big Ten championship; however, after the Wolverines lost to Ohio in the first round of the NCAA tournament, he decided to return and, in his words, “try to play for a national championship.”
“Darius Morris had just gone pro, leaving us without a point guard, and that’s like not having a quarterback,” Beilein said. “We had no idea that Trey could immediately step in.”
As a sophomore, Burke didn’t pick up a second conference championship. The Wolverines missed out when Jordan Morgan’s tip against Indiana rolled off the rim in the regular-season finale.
Perhaps propelled by that disappointment and an early loss in the Big Ten tournament, Burke then led the Wolverines to five straight NCAA tournament victories and a spot in the national title game against Louisville.
“There was never a single moment that I thought Trey was playing for the NBA instead of playing for Michigan,” Beilein said. “That kind of focus should be a model for young men who want to succeed at both of these levels.”
The entire team attended Burke’s news conference, although the other players didn’t speak to the media.
“After coming this close to winning that national championship, it was a tough decision to walk away and not play with these guys any more,” he said. “But I think it is the right time to do this.”
Burke leaves behind numerous highlights: his 24 points in the title game, his 30-foot 3-pointer to send Michigan’s Sweet 16 game against Kansas into overtime, his swipe-and-steal to beat Michigan State and his game-clinching block on Aaron Craft to beat Ohio State.
“There’s no one game that I’ll remember,” Burke said. “I’ll remember this whole season and all of the experiences we’ve had.
“Obviously, I’ll never forget the run we made at the end of the year, but mostly, I’ll just remember playing with these guys. Right now, no matter what I’m doing next, all of us are trying to get over losing to Louisville.”
Beilein now faces the trick of replacing Burke while also waiting for NBA decisions from Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr.
“It’s going to be be very difficult to replace Trey, not just because of the position, but because of everything he brought to the team,” Beilein said. “Not just his position, but his work ethic — every freshman knew how hard they have to work just by watching Trey.”
On the floor, the Wolverines have two obvious options at point guard: championship game spark-plug Spike Albrecht and highly rated freshman Derrick Walton.
Things will get trickier if McGary, Robinson and Hardaway leave. Although Hardaway has played three seasons, McGary and Robinson would return as sophomores.
If he were king for a day, Beilein said he’d rather switch to the baseball-draft model, where players can be drafted after high school and then again after their third year of college.
“I’d rather that kids got to unpack their bags in college for a while longer, but this is the system we have and we have to embrace it,” he said. “We will make sure that every player gets the best information possible, and we will give them an honest opinion of what they should do.”
For Burke, that opinion was to take his shot at the NBA, but the coach isn’t talking about what’s he has told the other three. They need to make their decisions by April 28.