I was here when Shawn Kemp was playing. That was my very first NBA memory. I already had a passion for the game. I was young, though. It was like a dream come true for me at the time. Now I’m back here playing. It’s surreal. —Jazz point guard Trey Burke
CLEVELAND — Trey Burke had his first quasi-homecoming in January when he played in Detroit and enjoyed quite the showing and reception from his Michigan fans.
The 21-year-old rookie had his second quasi-homecoming Friday at The Q when the 2011 Mr. Ohio Basketball played in his home state as a pro for the first time.
“It’s a lot different,” he said. “The last two years, I was coming back home to play against Ohio State. Now it’s the Cavaliers.”
Burke, who grew up in Columbus, Ohio, bought about 25 tickets for his parents, family and friends who made the 2 1/2-hour drive north on I-71 from the state capital to Cleveland.
Burke, who starred for Northland High School before going to Michigan after being spurned by Ohio State, wasn’t the biggest Cavaliers fan growing up, but he rooted for LeBron James and Co., especially during playoff time.
He smiled recalling going to Cleveland for an NBA game when he was 6 or 7 years old.
“I was here when Shawn Kemp was playing. That was my very first NBA memory,” Burke said. “I already had a passion for the game. I was young, though. It was like a dream come true for me at the time. Now I’m back here playing. It’s surreal.”
Burke scored 20 points with a career-high 12 assists while leading the Jazz to a 110-89 win at Detroit on Jan. 17. On Friday, Burke had a rougher night, finishing with just four points on 2-of-9 shooting, five rebounds and three assists while his opponent, All-Star Game MVP Kyrie Irving, went off for his first triple-double (21 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds) in the Cavs' 99-79 win.
It was still a nice opportunity for Burke to have, being able to play so close to home.
"It was great to see them (my parents) come to the game to support me the way that they've always supported me," he said. "They’ve seen me have subpar, bad games before. It doesn’t concern me too much. I was just glad for them to be here."
Next homecoming: Gordon Hayward in Indianapolis on Sunday.
THE RETURN II: Burke wasn’t the only one coming home (sorta). Alex Jensen, one of the Jazz’s player development coaches, was the head coach of the Cavaliers’ D-League affiliate, the Canton Charge, the past two seasons after his stint with Rick Majerus at St. Louis University.
Jensen, the Viewmont High product, earned D-League coach of the year honors for the 2012-13 campaign.
“We’ve heard it,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said, smiling about Jensen’s accolade.
The former University of Utah standout now works with the Jazz bigs, while co-player development director Johnnie Bryant assists the guards. Corbin hinted that the Jazz might hire another development coach in the future.
“He’s been really good (with) the guys at talking them through situations that they need to continue to work on to get better,” Corbin said of Jensen. “He’s been great. He’s been really good with the guys.”
ROAD WARRIORS: The Jazz just began the franchise’s longest road trip since 2003. This six-game journey began in Cleveland, continues in Indianapolis and also includes stops in Milwaukee, Washington, New York and Philadelphia.
“It’s a good lesson for this group of guys,” Corbin said.
One of the lessons: packing properly.
“When I was younger I made the mistake of underpacking,” Jazz forward Marvin Williams said. “You have to go out and kind of find stuff to buy, clothes to wear. I’m old enough now to know better.”
Added Burke: “I think packing is the easy part. I think it’s more just getting ready for it mentally. We understand it’s a really long road trip.”Comment on this story
TREY BRRRRRKE: The length of this trip isn’t the only thing Burke noticed.
“It’s a cold road trip as well,” Burke said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re bundling up so no one gets sick.”
Burke grew up in this state, but he’d forgotten just how frigid it is in these parts during the winter. Temperatures dipped in the low single digits Friday morning.
“I’d been away from it for a little while,” he said, “so it kind of shocked me when I got off the bus (Thursday) how cold and windy it was.”