Originally written on The Detroit Sports Site  |  Last updated 11/18/14
Trey Burke’s shot against Kansas in this year’s NCAA Tournament, which forced overtime in the Sweet 16 matchup, will not soon be forgotten by anyone who saw it. When Trey Burke arrived in Ann Arbor prior to his freshman year, the question on most Michigan basketball fans’ minds was about how big a step back the program would take trying to use Burke as the replacement for Darius Morris. Two summers later, the topic has changed — from how good Burke can be to how can Michigan survive without him. After sweeping all the national Player of the Year awards and guiding Michigan to its first national championship game appearance since 1993, Burke announced Sunday that he will enter the 2013 NBA Draft. It’s always difficult to see a talented college player exit school with eligibility left, but in Burke’s case, Michigan fans ought to pat their superstar on the back and offer a “Thanks for everything.” Burke was the best player in college basketball this past season. He is one of the greatest players to ever wear the Maize and Blue of Michigan. And he more than deserves a shot at the next level, especially since he decided to delay that jump through his sophomore season. The next move for Michigan should be to hang Burke’s jersey from the rafters. Should Michigan retire Trey Burke’s number? Michigan has retired the numbers of five former basketball players — Bill Buntin, Cazzie Russell, Phil Hubbard, Glen Rice and Rudy Tomjanovich. Like those players, Burke has been a transcendent talent for the Wolverines. But more than that, he helped elevate this program out of its two-decade-long doldrums, putting it back in the national spotlight. He’s done so while displaying all the qualities you’d want from the leader of your program: heart, enthusiasm and grace. He’s also made every single player he has played with better, from Stu Douglass and Zack Novak last season to Spike Albrecht, Tim Hardaway Jr. and the rest of this year’s bunch. Given his elite ability, Burke could have stepped outside of Beilein’s system to try to be a hero — and there were the occasional times when he did that as a last resort, like late against Kansas — but instead he stayed the course and kept his teammates involved. Oh, and that shot against Kansas, while we’re at it … not only will it go down as arguably the second biggest shot in Michigan basketball history (behind Rumeal Robinson’s title-winning free throw), but it will live on for ages as one of the NCAA Tournament’s greatest moments. Burke deserved that miracle make and all the hoopla that came with it. On multiple occasions throughout his Michigan career, a similar late shot rattled out, resulting in defeat — at Ohio State, vs. Indiana, at Arkansas. Those failures never shook Burke’s confidence, fitting since he entered college believing in himself far more than the people around him did. Finally, the shot fell. Burke then dominated overtime against Kansas and, about a week later, led Michigan onto the court in the NCAA finals. No matter what comes next for Michigan basketball (and Beilein has this program set to succeed for years), the stretch including the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons will go down as the Trey Burke Era. That’s not to take anything away from the teammates Burke laced ‘em up with, but it is the reality of his ability. Few players in Michigan basketball history have had the dynamic impact on the program, and the sport in general, that Burke did during his two years on campus. The ones that excelled at a similarly high level are immortalized inside Crisler Center, their numbers forever off limits for the players to follow. Burke should be the next Wolverine honored in such a way. He hustled and fought his way to the upper-echelon of college hoops — and better yet, he brought Michigan’s program along for the ride.
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