Alec Burks doesn’t even know where his pink backpack is.
It’s a fitting metaphor for how far the Jazz guard has come in the 10 months since he debuted as a rookie when he was presented a pink backpack as part of a hazing ritual and went on to produce 7 points per game.
Alec Burks file
Position » Guard College » Colorado Age » 21
Career » Drafted No. 12 overall by Jazz in 2011 NBA Draft. … Averaged 7.2 points in nearly 16 minutes per game during a lockout-shortened rookie season. … Averaged 17.2 points per game and was named to the Summer League second team last summer in Orlando. … Was named Big XII Freshman of the Year in 2009-10 and averaged 20.5 points as a sophomore.
NBA preseasonThunder at Jazz: Friday, 7 p.m.
This year, Burks is serious, and his teammates treat him that way. A talented lottery pick, the former University of Colorado star is battling for minutes with a slew of guards, including Randy Foye and Gordon Hayward.
"He’s one of the best guards at his position in his class for a reason," point guard Earl Watson said. "He’s not afraid of any competition."
Coach Tyrone Corbin has given Burks opportunities at point guard early in the preseason, saying that both he and Foye may be thrust into that position depending on injuries or size mismatches.
"He’s a guy that once he gets his minutes together and once he establishes a role," Watson said, "he could potentially be an All-Star."
It’s big talk about a player who after offseason acquisitions at the wing positions seemed destined to slide down the Jazz’s bench.
However, Corbin said Burks will take on an increased role this year — somehow.
"I anticipate seeing him more on the floor on a consistent basis," the third-year coach said. "He’s had a great summer, now [that needs to] transfer over to the games. I thought at the end of last year he came on very strong for us."
The Jazz drafted Burks as a supremely confident scorer out of Colorado, where he made nearly 50 percent of his shots and averaged 20 points after his sophomore year.
"He was a great player," said Andre Roberson, a junior Colorado guard who is considered an NBA prospect. "A dude that could score the ball with ease. In college he kind of lacked defense, but he made up for it on the offensive end."
Burks and Roberson remain close — Roberson was a freshman during Burks’ sophomore and final season in Boulder — and worked out together before training camp.
Roberson said Burks was a better shooting, more physically imposing version of the same player he knew from their time together with the Buffaloes. And Burks was even more confident then before. Roberson said Burks’ work ethic comes from his mother, Dina, who worked multiple jobs to provide for him and his brother.
"Just the way he grew up," Roberson said. "His mindset, he’s not going to lose, he’s not going to back down from nobody."
The confidence became Burks’ hallmark, even as a rookie matching up against the league’s elite.
"When you step between these lines, everybody’s the same," Burks said. "No matter what your name is."
That way of thinking applies when measuring himself against his teammates as well. Burks spent the offseason honing his perimeter shooting — the Jazz are expected to be significantly better in that regard this year — but declined to specify what he needed to focus on moving forward because "if I pick one thing then my other things relax, so I’m just going to work on everything."
As for that confidence? He’s got that locked up and is taking better care of it than he did his pink knapsack. It lives right here: "I know my talent will stick out," he said, "and I know I’ll find my minutes somewhere."
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