COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Besides being a great scorer, team leader, big winner and the 2011 Associated Press Mr. Basketball award winner, Columbus Northland's Trey Burke is one courageous young man.
A University of Michigan signee, the 6-foot-1 point guard wears his maize and blue everywhere around Ohio's capital city. Needless to say, some people take umbrage at a Michigan fan in the heart of Ohio State country.
“They try to give me a hard time here when I go to the store or to the barbershop or something like that,” Burke said with a laugh. “But I know it's all love at the end of the day. I'm going to have a lot of support from a lot of family and friends when I go there.”
Burke even sported a Michigan hat and shirt while sitting right behind the top-ranked Buckeyes bench when they hosted Michigan back on Feb. 3.
“He's a very brave young man,” Wolverines coach John Beilein said after that 62-53 loss. “He was all dressed in blue and coming into this place. We can't wait to coach him. He's a fine young man. He's going to help us a great deal.”
Burke makes it three in a row for Northland, with current Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger winning the Mr. Basketball award the past two seasons. It's the first time that any high school has produced more than one Mr. Basketball.
Sullinger's dad, Satch Sullinger, is also Burke's coach. He says that players prosper in an environment where they are permitted some freedom to play the way they like to play.
“We coach a style of basketball that is for the next level,” said Satch Sullinger, whose Vikings (25-1) meet AP poll champion Garfield Heights (22-1) in a much anticipated Division I state semifinal showdown on Friday night at Value City Arena. “I teach basketball decisions by keeping proper spacing, and hard work. Everything we do is hard. We don't play a zone. We play basic man to man. So you get a chance to see what these kids can really do. I guess they're being recognized for that.”
Burke, selected as the 24th annual winner of the Mr. Basketball award in balloting by a state media panel, averaged 23.9 points, 6.6 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 2.2 steals in the regular season while shooting 61 percent from the field, including 48 percent from three-point range (39 of 81).
Jared Sullinger is one of his best friends. He jokes that he might just have to pick off Burke with an elbow if the two meet on a Big Ten court next season — should Sullinger elect to return next season to Ohio State rather than jump to the NBA, which his father indicated.
“He's like a big brother to me,” Burke said of the 6-9 Sullinger, who won the Mr. Basketball award in both 2009 and 2010. “Since the fourth grade, he's been staying the night at my house. He calls my dad, ‘Pops’ so it's a real good relationship we have. I love Jared like a big brother.”
On the court, Burke is a wizard dribbling the basketball, seldom makes a turnover and produces a lot of points while also including his teammates.
“I'm the type of player that I just love to win,” said Burke, who is supported by his parents and a younger sister (another attends the University of Toledo) at most games.
A solid student — he had a 3.7 grade-point average last grading period and he carries a GPA of just under 3.0 for his high school years — Burke is a remarkable blend of basketball IQ, speed and agility in action.
“Trey is quick with the basketball. I mean he is QUICK. He can get down the court quicker sometimes dribbling the ball than someone running without it,” Satch Sullinger said. “And he's a winner. It's not about points to Trey. It's about winning. He's a tremendous leader on and off the floor, and he's a better kid than he is a basketball player.”
Winning the Mr. Basketball award was a goal after Burke saw one of his best friends win it the past two seasons.
“Me and Jared just put in enough hard work to earn it and it's just a blessing from God,” Burke said.
Burke will receive a plaque from the Ohio Associated Press in the shape of the state.
Others considered for the award included Travis Trice II of Huber Heights Wayne, Brunswick's Pat Forsythe, Trey Lewis of Garfield Heights and Jalen Ragland of Chillicothe.