CHAPEL HILL -- Already on edge from the possibly impending announcement that the University of North Carolina basketball team's starting forward Brandan Wright would opt to leave school early to make himself eligible for the National Basketball Association college player draft, the Tar Heel Nation was stunned today at the totally unexpected decision by reserve guard Dewey Burke to go pro.
Some top college basketball analysts were shocked at the announcement since Burke, optimistically listed at six foot and 185 pounds, played sparingly and started but a single game during his time at UNC. Draft insider Dave Telep, director of basketball recruiting for Scouts.com, however, did note that former UNC player Marvin Williams, who did not start any games for the Heels, was picked second overall by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2005 draft.
Many basketball analysts had not seen Burke going pro at all -- based strictly on his personal and performance statistics. But after the season, a more careful dissection of UNC team outcomes showed that Burke was the key player on the team. Said Telep, "Burke played in 21 games this season -- all 21 of which were Tar Heel victories. Further, all seven of the team's defeats came without Burke. The team only went 10 and 7 when Dewey did not play." Telep noted that Burke's sole start as a Tar Heel varsity player came in no less of a game than UNC's final home contest, a series-sweeping victory over Duke.
"Clearly, 'Biscuit' was worth more to this team than just a cheap breakfast the day after games in which the Heels scored 100 points or more," said former Duke player and current CBS color analyst, Jay Bilas. "More incredibly than just wins and no losses, Burke's contribution came with an average of only one and half minutes played per game," he added.
As a point of comparison, said sportswriter Art Chansky, even the legendary Michael Jordan never had an impact even close to Burke's. In his best year at UNC, the national championship season of 1981-82, when Jordan played the team went 32 and 2, but that took him an average of nearly 30 minutes a game to accomplish, added Chansky.
ACC basketball guru and current Orange County Commissioner Barry Jacobs said he believes that Burke has the best winning percentage of any player for North Carolina in the last 50 years, exceeding even that of Timo Makkonen, who played for the Tar Heels under Dean Smith from 1981 until 1984, who went 15-0 during the 1983-84 season.
Jacobs noted that Burke made three of the most important plays of the season for the Heels. The first two were 3-pointers that pushed the Tar Heels over the century mark. (January 3 versus Penn and January 31 versus Miami), for which, Burke earned his nickname "Biscuit," as they allow fans to purchase two sausage biscuits at participating Bojangles restaurants for 99 cents as compared to a regular price of $1.79 each.
But Burke also executed the single play that many experts say set up UNC's ACC tournament championship during the Bloody Broken Nose episode at the end of Carolina's regular-season-ending victory over Duke. Without Burke's carefully performed bearhug of the bloodied Tyler Hansbrough, it is likely that UNC would have lost the All-American for one or more tournament games -- as Gerald Henderson would have lost his head again, this time literally.
TV basketball analyst Billy Packer made a special note of the fact that Burke did not play a single second in UNC's NCAA regional finals loss to Georgetown. Packer was emphatic that he would have started him -- and had him jump center.
David Glenn, editor of the ACC Sports Journal, was stunned by Burke's move. "I expected Kevin Durant to opt for the draft," said Glenn. "Greg Oden I could see, but I have to admit that I was blindsided by Burke. I had so much focus on underclassmen. I guess I should have taken note that he was a senior," said Glenn.
An employment placement specialist with Manpower, Inc., Dianne Ving says that Burke, a senior sociology major, could sign an employment contract with "any number of service industries." She said, based on recent statistics for sociology graduates and given his demonstrated charisma and leadership characteristics, could expect to earn an annual salary in "the low-to-mid-five-digit range."
Rumors are that Bojangles is offering Burke an assistant manager position at "the franchise of his choice."
Curiously, Burke has been given little interest in the National Football League for their upcoming draft even though he was originally recruited by Fairfield University as a quarterback but transferred to North Carolina without playing after the school discontinued its football program.
Gary D. Gaddy believes that he saw Makkonen score all 20 of his career points (in person or on TV) and definitely did see Finland's finest's two points during the 1981-82 season, but was always more impressed with his fellow Finn, former UNC women’s player Jenni Laaksonen. (Go to GaryGaddy.com to see past columns.)
A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald, April 19, 2007. Copyright 2007 Gary D. Gaddy