Trey Burke, a Columbus native who grew up a Buckeye fan but was not recruited by Ohio State, is now a star player for the Wolverines. Does Burke's not being recruited by Ohio State change the way that Buckeye fans regard him?
Normally a highly-touted, nationally recognized athlete wearing a Michigan uniform would conjure quite a bit of dislike from Buckeye fans, especially when that athlete was born and raised in Ohio. Desmond Howard, for example, is a Cleveland native who, after Earle Bruce's firing, spurned the Buckeyes by choosing to play football for Michigan, where he ultimately earned the Heisman Trophy and other major national awards. For Buckeye fans, dislike of Desmond Howard is widespread (but sometimes over-the-top), and nobody would expect anything less. Why, Buckeye fans wonder, would an Ohio kid ever choose to wear Maize and Blue instead of Scarlet and Gray?
In Trey Burke's case, wearing Scarlet and Gray was never really an option. Burke's story is well known: a Columbus native who played high school basketball with his best friend Jared Sullinger, Burke was a Buckeye fan from an early age and admittedly wanted to play for Ohio State in college. Despite being named Ohio's Mr. Basketball and earning All-American honors in 2011, however, Burke was not recruited by the Buckeyes, who already had Aaron Craft on the roster and were recruiting Shannon Scott, then a more-highly rated recruit than Burke, as Craft's backup and eventual successor. Having made an early commitment to Penn State in 2009, Burke ultimately changed his mind and committed to Michigan, never having been seriously pursued by Thad Matta and Ohio State. Now Burke is a candidate for National Player of the Year and is widely recognized as one of the best point guards in the country.
But hold on: let's not call for Thad Matta's firing just yet. This article isn't about what-ifs and misgivings; Ohio State has their own point guard of whom fans think quite highly (though evidently other basketball fans don't share their sentiment). Rather, this article is about how Buckeye fans – especially Columbus natives and residents – regard Trey Burke.
Trey Burke does not have the typical Wolverine pedigree. He isn't a Michigan native, nor is he like Desmond Howard, an Ohio native who could have gone to Ohio State and chose not to. He also isn't like Kyle Kalis, another Ohio native turned Wolverine athlete, who originally committed to Ohio State and then changed his commitment to Michigan. Granted, Burke's Buckeye allegiance doesn't quite rise to the level of Reon Dawson's (who, even after committing to Michigan, reaffirmed his Buckeye loyalty). But Burke was undoubtedly a Buckeye fan by birth and likely would have gone to Ohio State if offered a scholarship there. Perhaps his inability to go to Ohio State should exclude him from the typical sports-angst directed at Wolverines by Buckeye fans.
Or perhaps not. After all, Burke could have gone somewhere else – specifically somewhere not so Michigan-ish – but he didn't. He could have kept his commitment to Penn State and played for the Nittany Lions. (Would this change how Ohio State fans think of him?) But he didn't. He made the conscious decision to go to Michigan. As a result of this decision, no matter where he grew up or who he calls his best friend, Burke plays basketball for Michigan, a fact which, in the mind of some Buckeye fans, is sufficient to warrant him being treated like anyone else playing for the Wolverines.
I'm somewhere in-between. Having grown up in Columbus, I generally like to see other Columbus natives succeed on a national level. But Burke's case is obviously a little different. On one hand, I can't bring myself to unabashedly root for him. Like other Buckeye fans, I'm not sure I could root for anyone in a Michigan uniform – be it Kyle Kalis, Desmond Howard, Trey Burke, or Mother Teresa. But, to be entirely honest, I don't harbor the kind of disdain for Burke that I do for other Michigan players, and I wonder if other Buckeye fans share my conflicted disposition toward Burke.
Like any other Buckeye fan, I like to see players like Nik Stauskas go one-for-eight from the field. I enjoy seeing TV coverage of a dejected Tim Hardaway Sr., stocking cap and all. And I revel in Mitch McGary's not quite living up to the hype. But I can't bring myself to hope that Trey Burke suffers a similar basketball fate. For me, an ideal world is one in which Burke has a good game but Michigan loses miserably. But maybe it's just me.