He came within a few seconds of an NCAA title and helped restore the tradition of winning in basketball at the University of Michigan, and now Trey Burke moves on to the life of an NBA rookie with the NBA Draft this Thursday night at Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York. The Columbus, Ohio native, according to his coach with the Wolverines, John Beilein, was always the most prepared player on the court, and he appears to have taken great strides to make sure he is the most prepared draftee off the court as well, whether his fortunes fall to places needing the athletic guard, like Orlando or New Orleans.
Unlike many young athletes, the soft spoken All-American has an eye not just on Draft day, but on all the aspects of business that may come post-draft, and he assembled one of the most unique teams to help him grow whatever his brand will be in whatever market that will be. That team includes his dad, Benji, who will handle the task of making sure all aspects of the mandated rookie contract is in place, the marketing team from The Legacy Agency and the financial management advice from Michigan based Compass Management Group. Combined, Legacy and Compass have over 100 years of experience and scores of clients in the NFL, MLB, coaching and broadcasting as clients, but ironically, both will be making their first foray into the branding and business management of an NBA draft pick, and helping mold his off court business persona like they have for other successful clients.
Unusual choices? Buke said no on Tuesday. “When you look at what Legacy has done with such a wide range of clients they are a great fit for me to see what my options are,” he said on a while on a pre-draft media tour. “Compass is also a smart choice to see how all my financial details can be handled going forward as well; they both let me worry about basketball and give me the ability to fully understand the business side when needed. I am excited to be working with both groups.”
While handling mostly the business background for NFL players, Compass is certainly no stranger to the business of the NBA. The company is run by Daniel Sillman and Jordan Dumars, whose dad Joe is President of Basketball Operations for the Detroit Pistons. In just three short years Compass has built a select group of mostly NFL players, including the Ravens Jimmy Smith, the Eagles DeShawn Jackson, and the Rams Trumaine Johnson among others. They also hit an early homer a few weeks, ago, teaming with Dominc Smith, the top draft pick of the New York Mets, to help map out his future as he begins a climb to the Majors in Port St. Lucie, Fla. “It is all about building credibility with core guys who are looking for the long term in all aspects of their lives, and that’s not always an easy thing,” Sillman said. “In Trey’s case it really is a perfect mix of an athlete who is smart, marketable, grounded and talented, so we are enjoying this new experience with him, and believe he can be a great role model in every aspect going forward.”
How important is the long term plan for a young athlete. “It is critical these days, because of the amount of media, the distractions and the rush to do everything now,” said Terry Lyons, former VP of International Communications for the NBA and now an independent consultant working with sports and entertainment brands. “For a young guy like Trey Burke to not just surround himself with smart and responsible people, but to understand the value each brings to helping him succeed not just in basketball but in life, is really immeasurable, and is something that leagues and teams should look to have all their athletes emulate. It’s never too soon to start planning, and Trey is showing all that he gets it.”
What he will get from a company like Legacy this week will be a treasure trove of potential brand partners big and small. Some will be identified through league agreements, some will be market or product specific, but all will be looking to identify with a young high profile athlete they can grow with. Will he go the route of large exposure or be selective in brand partner choices? “I would like to be somewhere in the middle,” he added. “There has to be a right fit for me personally with the companies we may choose to work with. Right now we are just excited to have opportunities and see how we can best manage what comes with all the time I will have to put in to be successful in the NBA.”
That time on the court will come soon, but for now, Burke seems to have created a plan that will give him the ability to focus on his skills, rather than worry about his business. Score another one for the All-American Wolverine.