Just put it on a shelf for a little while and forget about it. Nearly everything that is written about the super sophomore from Grandview, Mo., seems to mention his NBA potential at some point. Those kinds of expectations can wear on a 20-year-old. It`s a lot to live up to as we have seen at times this season.
Let him be a college basketball player for now. Enjoy him while he`s here.
This isn`t to suggest that Burks won`t eventually get there, or that he lacks the talent to play with the likes of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony. It`s possible that he does.
But here is a question:
Early in his sophomore season, would you say Burks is more Chauncey Billups or Richard Roby?
Both of those former Buffs were also considered pro prospects at the same point in their careers Burks is at now.
Billups became a lottery pick after his sophomore year, chosen third overall in 1997 by the Boston Celtics. He won an NBA championship in Detroit and earned the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award. There never seemed to be any doubt about him not only playing at the highest level but succeeding there.
Richard Roby played four years in Boulder and never was drafted. He continues to play professionally overseas after getting a look most recently in the NBA summer league earlier this year. He`s keeping the dream alive.
Billups took over games. It wasn`t always by scoring a mess of points or draining game-winning shots. He willed his team to win. He made the players around him better.
That ability to put the team on his back and a knack for winning eluded Roby and it hasn`t really emerged from Burks yet. Though there are some encouraging signs, such as teammates looking to put the ball in his hands as much as possible in an overtime game against Colorado State on Wednesday.
CU coach Tad Boyle said he believes it lives inside Burks and it’s his job to extract it.
“What I told Alec before the season started is my job and our job as a coaching staff is to make you better,” Boyle said. “I can’t make you better if I’m afraid to pull you out of the game. I can’t make you better if I’m afraid to correct you in practice. I can’t make you better if I’m afraid to challenge you defensively.
“The thing I like about Alec is he appreciated that and he hasn’t taken it the wrong way.”
There are a lot of factors that go into winning basketball games. Burks’ team is certainly handicapped in the paint and he isn’t surrounded by the same talent that played alongside Billups.
But if Burks is truly a lottery pick or even a mid-first-round pick at this point, would the Buffs be losing road games at San Francisco and Harvard? Even Wednesday, you kept expecting Burks to take over and provide a little breathing room for the Buffs. It didn’t happen.
But it there is still plenty of time for him to develop that killer instinct on the court.
The numbers say Burks is having a pretty good season, but not an excellent one. He entered Wednesday’s game scoring 20 points and grabbing four rebounds a game. He scored 25 against the Rams.
They are solid numbers, but there are still too many moments when Burks appears to playing at half speed. He occasionally stands and watches when the ball isn’t in his hands and Boyle will tell you he can improve his defense.
In fact, Boyle told everyone Burks can improve his defense when he began substituting for him on the defensive end with less than 2 minutes left in a three-point game Wednesday. He took him out on the defensive end in overtime, too, but that had more to do with foul trouble.
Burks needs to take that personally and improve as a defender. He can’t allow the possibility that the game might be decided while he’s sitting next to Boyle on the bench if he wants to lead his team to the postseason.
“The thing I like about Alec is he’s pretty honest with himself,” Boyle said. “He’s got unbelievable confidence with the ball in his hands. That’s why he’s as good as he is, but the areas where we’re trying to get him better is moving without the ball and setting screens, making his teammates better.
“And on the defensive end, locking in and taking some pride there as well.”