Alec Burks, the 6'6", 195-pound shooting guard for the Colorado Buffaloes, is having himself quite a sophomore campaign.
The 2009 Big 12 Freshman of the Year is averaging 20.5 points per game, along with 6.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists this season.
Burks' efforts carried Colorado to an 8-8 mark in Big 12 play. They were considered to be on the NCAA tournament's bubble heading into the Big 12 tournament. With wins over Iowa State (77-75) and Kansas State (87-75) figured to help their cause.
But the selection committee must have seen something they didn't like as the Buffaloes fell 90-83 to eventual champion Kansas in the semifinals.
Instead of being picked for the NCAA's field of 68, Colorado was relegated to the NIT bracket. Three wins later, and they're now matched up in the semifinals with No. 1 seed Alabama.
Since the start of postseason play, in his last six games, Alec Burks has scored at least 23 points and recorded a double-double with rebounds on two occasions (29-15 vs. Iowa State on 3/9 and 25-10 vs. Kent State on 3/22).
For his position, Burks is a tremendous rebounder. He has great instincts around the hoop and is more than willing to fight for jump balls against players who are both bigger and stronger than he is.
Burks pulled down seven or more rebounds in 18 of his team's 37 games this season. This was up from a total of just six games during his freshman year.
Part of the reason Burks is constantly in position for a rebound is his propensity to slash through the lane as he looks to make plays.
The shooting guard has good ball control skills and can drive with either hand. He also has that explosive first step that scouts look for with the ability to throw down vicious dunks and alley-oops.
Burks' comfort inside the lane, and his ability to get to the rim, lead to him drawing a lot of fouls. In fact, on a per 40 minute basis, Alec Burks was the 15th most fouled player in the country in 2010 (7.5 per 40 minutes).
His increase in points per game, from 17.1 in 2009 to 20.5 in 2010, was primarily aided by an increase in free-throw percentage (from 77.2 percent to 82 percent).
Alec Burks is a top notch athlete with a good basketball IQ. He's going to continue to improve as a player, in all facets of his game, but he really needs to work on his mid-range and outside shooting.
In two years of college ball, Burks has shot just 31.7 percent from behind the arc (46-for-145). Big 12 coaches also constantly deployed zone defenses against Colorado, forcing Burks to have to hit 15-20 foot jump shots, an area from where he clearly is uncomfortable at times.
Whatever NBA organization drafts Alec Burks would be best served by immediately refining his jump shot mechanics. Since Burks doesn't square his body up well; he has poor balance and gets inconsistent results.
Additionally, Burks needs to improve his defending.
He's an incredible athlete with a nice long wing span and amazing horizontal quickness. But the expert basketball IQ that Burks displays on the offensive end seems to disappear when his team doesn't have the ball.
Good coaching in the NBA should be able to fix this problem, and turn Burks into, at worst, a league average defensive player.
The last knock against him is his poor shot selection. But I think this stems primarily from the lack of talent around him.
Despite the fact that he's not a point guard, Alec Burks finished 14th in the nation for usage rate in 2010. He was responsible for 32.2 percent of Colorado's possessions, a mark not too far off from BYU's Jimmer Fredette, who ranks second at 36.3 percent.
With a true point guard and other good NBA players around him, I doubt Alec Burks will take many of the same shots he takes in college.
A good, smart basketball player like that would be more than willing to dish the ball if he knew he didn't have to carry his team on a nightly basis.
The 2011 draft class was already supposed to be among the weakest in years. With top players such as Jared Sullinger and Jordan Hamilton already electing to return to college, the talent pool continues to thin out.
If he's fine with leaving having never played an NCAA tournament game, Alec Burks could find himself inside the top five picks come June 23rd.
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