Jeff Bzdelik walked into the Colorado locker room one afternoon, noticed that Austin Dufault was conducting a facial hair experiment and decided to give the sophomore forward some grief.

"I said to Austin kiddingly, 'If you`ve lost a razor, I have an extra one at home,'" Bzdelik said.

Alec Burks then added: "One day, I`ll have to use one."

Burks wasn`t kidding. But the baby-faced freshman -- listed at 6-foot-6 these days and still growing -- is already a man on the court.

Entering Saturday`s game against No. 13 Kansas State, Burks leads all Big 12 freshmen in scoring (16.6 ppg) and is the Buffs` leading rebounder (5.1 rpg).

After CU`s 78-71 upset over No. 22 Baylor on Tuesday night -- Burks scored 16 points in the game and later appeared in SportsCenter`s "Top Plays" segment with his gravity-defying reverse layup highlight -- the 18-year-old guard explained that his mental approach to basketball is quite simple.

"I don`t believe in pressure," he said matter-of-fact.

Burks` ability to make the game fun has helped refocus and re-energize some of his veteran teammates who were beaten down by losing and lacking confidence against opponents like Baylor prior to the season. His presence in the lineup alongside Cory Higgins and Marcus Relphorde has made the Buffs a dangerous team at the Coors Events Center, where they are 9-0 this season.


"Alec has made us a more threatening team," said Higgins, who is fourth in the Big 12 in scoring (18.2 ppg) and shooting 50 percent from the field, thanks in large part tothe attention defenses also have to pay Burks. "Teams can`t focus on any one of us now because they have to deal with all of us."

Higgins, a third-team All-Big 12 selection last year as a sophomore, scored 266 points during his freshman season. Burks already has 256 points with at least 15 games remaining in his freshman campaign.

Bzdelik isn`t surprised by anything Burks does with the ball. This story wouldn`t be unfolding, however, if the kid didn`t make a commitment to defense as soon as he stepped foot on campus.

"He sat me down and said if I don`t play defense, I don`t play," Burks said. "The light bulb went off in my head that I had to play defense. ... I`m so athletic that I could just get away with not playing any defense in high school.

"It was a big culture shock when I got here."

Burks, despite the lack of interest in defense as a prep superstar, was still named the Gatorade player of the year last season after leading his high school team to the state championship game in Missouri`s largest classification.

His mom wanted him to play at a Big 12 school closer to home (Grandview, Mo.). Kansas State was the only other program wise enough to seriously court Burks.

"I was probably a day away from going there," said Burks, who visited Manhattan and then Boulder during the recruiting process. "I came out here on my visit and loved it so much that I made my mind up to come here. But I was real close to going there."

Burks verbally committed to Bzdelik`s rebuilding project before his senior season. He was 6-3 going on 6-4 at the time. When he arrived at CU he had grown another two inches.

"I hope not," Bzdelik said when asked if his rising star was done growing.

The coach can`t wait to find out what kind of a player Burks develops into by the time he`s old enough to shave.