The Wolverine

June/July 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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74 THE WOLVERINE JUNE/JULY 2017 M any Michigan basketball fans might remember the early 1970s as the first time they had their dreams dashed by an early NBA entry. The Wolverines had finished 22‑5 and two points away from the Final Four (a 72‑70 loss to Marquette in the Elite Eight) in 1974, with star Campy Russell leading the way by posting 23.7 points per game for the sixth‑ranked Wolverines. Russell, though, declared for the NBA under the hardship rule. The Wolverines went from national con‑ tender to second in the Big Ten and were bounced in the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. Nobody should fault Russell for leaving. He was trying to better his family's dire situation. For those who aren't in that po‑ sition, though … well, what's the rush? Head coach John Beilein talks of‑ ten talks about recruiting kids who are "beating down the doors" to get to Michigan. Logic would seem to dictate that once they get there, they wouldn't be in a rush to beat them down to leave, especially if they're not going to be high draft picks. Seven NBA Draft picks in the last five years indicates the coaches are going to get you where you want to go if you're good enough, and likely improve your draft stock to boot. So again … What's the hurry? For some like Nik Stauskas and Trey Burke, both projected lottery picks after their second years, leav‑ ing was a no‑brainer. Both were near locks for the top 10, having been coached into lottery picks. Even Burke, though, needed the counseling of those closest to him to be talked into staying for his second year … and what he would have missed if his dad, Benji, and others weren't the voice of reason. "We don't want him leaving yet," Benji Burke said in April 2012 after his son had led Michigan to its first Big Ten title since 1986. "We just got here." So they sat down with Beilein, and those in the room convinced Burke he could accomplish much more — and improve his draft stock — with one more season in Ann Arbor. Burke, of course, became U‑M's first consensus National Player of the Year since Chris Webber in 1993. He led the Wolverines to a national championship game appearance, be‑ came the talk of college basketball, went No. 9 overall in the draft and had a very good rookie season with the Utah Jazz. Shortly thereafter, Burke had the block M tattooed on his arm, a per‑ manent reminder of his time in Ann Arbor. There's a chance that some‑ day, deservedly so, his jersey will hang in the rafters next to stars like Cazzie Russell, Rudy Tomjanovich and Glen Rice. "I'm a pretty humble guy, and I'd never want to say it should or shouldn't happen, but I think about that all the time," Burke told report‑ ers last summer. "I love Michigan so much — if I saw my number up there, that gives me goose bumps just thinking about it." He wouldn't be if he hadn't fol‑ lowed the good advice of his par‑ ents and others and received the great coaching he got from Beilein and staff to become the face of col‑ lege basketball in 2013. Big men Moe Wagner and D.J. Wilson are both considered border‑ line first‑round picks this year, hav‑ ing declared without agents (so they can still return to U‑M), and most believe they'd benefit from another year under Beilein. The pair attended the NBA Com‑ bine from May 9‑14 and have until May 24 to withdraw their names from the draft. Both had their ups and downs dur‑ ing the postseason, but the last quote we got from Wilson in the postgame locker room following a loss to Ore‑ gon was, "It's my fault we lost" after he missed a layup and a late box out for a put‑back in a one‑point loss. That wasn't fair, of course. One or two plays don't make a game, and Wilson was a big part of the reason U‑M was in the contest, having made some big triples. But it's also hard to fathom any player going out on that note. If Wilson (or Wagner) is seriously con‑ sidering it, he'd be wise to consider Burke's experience. "I sat down after I left and thought about what we had just done — we kind of made history," Burke said. "Obviously, there was disappointment after the season because we came up short, but you look back at it now and we really did make our mark on the school." Legacies matter, after all. Ask guard Caris LeVert, who returned twice and missed nearly two full Big Ten seasons with injury. Here's to more following his lead, now and in the future — not for the fans' sake, but for their own. LeVert has no regrets, and neither will those who secure their legacy in similar fashion. ❏ Chris Balas has been with The Wolver- ine since 1997, working part time for five years before joining the staff full time in 2002. Contact him at cbalas@ thewolverine.com and follow him on Twitter @Balas _ Wolverine. INSIDE MICHIGAN   CHRIS BALAS Legacies In Limbo Most believe that D.J. Wilson, who is test- ing the waters for the NBA Draft, would benefit from another year under head coach John Beilein. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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