Burks Earns First Big 12 Player of the Week Honor
BOULDER - Alec Burks hardly began the 2010-11 Big 12 Conference basketball season as an unknown, but it didn't take him long to confirm his credentials as one of the league's top players.
In Colorado's conference-opening upset of No. 8/9 Missouri on Saturday, Burks poured in 36 points - the second-highest total in the league this season - and on Monday was named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week.
"It's a great feeling that the Big 12 media saw what we did against Missouri and recognized the hard work that I put into my game," said Burks, a 6-foot-6 sophomore from Grandview, Mo.
Burks, the Big 12's Freshman of the Year last season, received the weekly honor for the first time and was the first Buffs player recognized this season. He also has received recognition for the Wooden and Naismith postseason awards, possible tributes he said "means a great deal . . . the team is trusting in me to make plays and I'm making them. It's a great feeling, a feeling that I can't describe."
For the week of Jan. 3-9, Burks averaged 28.0 points, which encompassed CU wins against Western New Mexico (92-70) and Mizzou (89-76). In addition to his career-best 36 against the Tigers, he began the week with 20 points and eight rebounds against the Mustangs on Wednesday night.
Three days later, when MU visited, Burks "was in a zone," Tigers Coach Mike Anderson said on Monday's Big 12 coaches teleconference. "He took advantage of what our defense gave him . . . but he's playing with a lot more confidence. It was a career game for him, so obviously he had a lot going for him. He's a good player."
In addition to his scoring against Anderson's team, Burks contributed eight rebounds, two assists and a steal. He was three-for-three from behind the arc and hit nine of his 11 free throw attempts in leading CU to its first win against a Top 10 team since 2003.
CU Coach Tad Boyle called his leading scorer (20.1 average, No. 2 in Big 12) "a special player. When the ball is in his hands, as a coach, you always think something good is going to happen. He can make plays for himself because he's got great basketball instincts.
"But what also makes him special is that he can make plays for others - and that's what makes him scary good. We want him to pick his spots and know when to make plays for himself and when to make plays for his teammates."
Boyle called Burks' earning the league's weekly recognition "a great honor because there are so many darn good players in the Big 12. It says he had a heck of a game (vs. Mizzou). And anybody who saw the game or the highlights knows he's a special player."
CU (12-4, 1-0) has won five consecutive games and plays Wednesday night at No. 21/20 Kansas State (12-4, 0-1) in a game televised on ESPNU (7 p.m.). The Wildcats lost their Big 12 opener on Saturday at Oklahoma State (76-62).
K-State Coach Frank Martin was intrigued by Burks when Burks was a Missouri high school player - although the version Martin saw was at least three inches shorter.
"I thought he was a big-time player when I watched him play," Martin said. "He had tremendous ball skills and was unbelievable at putting the ball in the hole in various ways. But at the time he was 6-3; I didn't know he would be 6-6 or 6-7 . . . but in skill, I thought he was very, very good."
OSU's win over Martin's team - ranked No. 17 at the time - was due in part to the play of Cowboys sophomore Jean-Paul Olukemi, who came off the bench in two wins last week and averaged 19.0 points and 7.5 rebounds. Olukemi was named the Big 12 Rookie of the Week.