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Utah Jazz: For Trey Burke, ‘first impression means something’

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Michigan's Trey Burke listens to a question about their third-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament during a news conference in Auburn Hills, Mich., Friday March 22, 2013. Memphis will play Michigan State Saturday. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

By Aaron Falk

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Oct 10 2013 04:48PM
Updated Feb 14, 2014 11:35PM

Nerves would have been understandable.

Plenty of rookies would have struggled with them — especially in his first real taste of the NBA, especially facing off against a star like Stephen Curry. Utah’s Trey Burke admitted that he felt the nerves, the excitement, but only after his team had left the floor with the win.

It was only preseason, sure, but Burke left his veteran backup, John Lucas III, impressed.

"He let the game come to him," Lucas said. "When I saw that, I was like, ‘Young fella’s gonna be OK. Young fella’s gonna be all right.’ I think he’s going to be a star in this league."

If that’s going to be the case, Burke will have another chance to prove it against top competition Friday, as the Jazz continue their preseason schedule in Boise against the Portland Trail Blazers and reigning Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard.

"I’m very excited," said Burke, who described himself as a Lillard "fan." "This is what I expected coming into the league. Every night, you can’t relax. It’s no longer college."

He may not be in a classroom, but the education of Trey Burke continues.

"We talked about it during the summer, during training camp," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "Every night you’re going up against All-Star guys. Especially for him, the first time seeing these guys in an NBA setting, the first impression means something."

The ninth overall pick in the 2013 draft left more than just Lucas impressed Tuesday night, scoring 12 points and dishing out three assists in a 101-78 win over Golden State on Tuesday. Corbin was pleased with how his rookie floor general overcame a slow start and started knocking down jump shots, helping to erase the memories of going 1 for 19 from beyond the arc in summer league.

Still, Corbin said, there’s plenty of work left to do. As the national college basketball player of the year last season, Burke averaged 18.6 points and 6.7 assists a night for the Michigan Wolverines.

Scoring chances will come, but Corbin wants his point guard to become a better facilitator for the team.

"That’s going to be a balance for him," the coach said. "It’s going to take him a while. He’s been a guy who’s been such a dynamic scorer in his career. That’s what he’s used to doing. That’s his first instinct. But he’s trying to understand the importance of finding his teammates, find his teammates early and that will free him up more as the game goes on."

Burke is still working to understand the intricacies of the Jazz offense, but he said he’s making progress every day toward knowing the new system and where his teammates will be on the floor. It’s been a change from his system in college, which he said offered him "a little more freedom."

"Now I have to learn how to get guys involved more and just try to get my teammates going," Burke said.

The youngster hasn’t been shy to ask for help, Lucas said. Burke has come to him with questions about play design, defensive positioning and terminology.

"I’m not going to come in here and act like I know everything," Burke said. "The advice that they give, I try to soak it all in."

That’s another thing that has Lucas impressed.

"Most guys that come in that are high draft picks think they know everything, think they can play," Lucas said. "He’s coming in like, ‘I want to be better. I want to be the best PG in the NBA.’ That was his mentality. That’s exactly what he told me the first day I met him."

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