First published in the Dec. 4 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
The new high school boys’ basketball season promises to be a little more familiar than last season’s campaign, which was hindered by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The two biggest schools in Burbank are ready to go and already on the court.
“[Last season] was obviously tough for us, but not just for us, but everyone involved over the last year,” Burroughs Head Coach Allan Ellis said. “We all had to do what was necessary, but it’s nice to have some normalcy.”
The Burbank High School team has a trio of goals for this season.
“Our goals are just to really get better, to win league and go to playoffs,” Bulldogs Head Coach Sid Cooke said. “We tell our kids that’s our goal. We don’t really stress about it. We just go out and play hard, and we want to play to win the best we can.”
Despite significant turnover from last season’s squad, which advanced all the way to the CIF-Southern Section Division IIIAA semifinals, this team looks to be a close-knit group.
“These guys have been in the system. They had a summer together. They had a fall together,” Cooke said. “Last [season] we kind of had to wing everything. We had a pretty good run, but [this squad] is a little closer than last year [and] a little bit more connected defensively.”
Cooke has been the head man at Burbank for three seasons but, due to the pandemic, they have been irregular. This season Cooke, who originated and led the basketball program at Renaissance Academy, has had more opportunity to mold his squad.
“I really haven’t had the time I wanted, so this [season] is a little better for me,” Cooke said. “I can explain things a little bit better [and] put my system in a little bit better.”
Burbank has only three varsity players coming back. The lone starter to return is Phoenix Mosley, who is the point guard. The senior will be counted on to lead the Bulldogs.
“Really it’s just going to be the JV guys and the ones on the bench last year, plus Phoenix,” said Cooke, whose team will make the jump to Division IIAA. “So we are going to have a collective group.”
Cooke has seen notable improvement from Sattwik Banerjee and expects the junior to play a bigger role.
“He’s gotten bigger, stronger and more experienced,” Cooke said. “He’s back and I like him.”
Senior Arman Danielian will be added back to the mix after missing last season due to injury.
“I think he’ll do well as far as being the glue,” Cooke said.
Julian Gonzalez may also play a key role after being elevated from junior varsity. Nathan Contreras will be returning to the team, and Cooke sees the senior as the “spark plug.”
“We’ve got to learn as we go, but they are trying to buy in and that’s really all I can ask,” Cooke said. “It’s really a good group. The chemistry is good and we’ve had time to build. I’m kind of happy with it. Let’s see what happens.”
Last season, Burroughs finished in what would be the upper tier of the Pacific League and advanced to the postseason, losing in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division IIIAA playoffs. This season’s squad will look to build on that, starting with defense.
“We have a pretty unique group of players that can play multiple positions defensively,” Ellis said. “We have a unique group of players offensively where we have multiple guys that can handle the ball, multiple guys that can go downhill and create for themselves and others. We [also] have shooters and big guys at the same time, so we have a pretty good, solid roster top to bottom.”
The Bears have straightforward and familiar goals for the campaign.
“I have the same goal every single year. I would love to win league and have a deep playoff run,” Ellis said. “That’s the goal I have told my team, and the team has the same goal.”
The Bears have a strong group of returners, including Nick Schlander.
“He’ll be a senior and he’s been with me for four years,” Ellis said. “I have high expectations for him being able to lead this team.”
Other players who saw minutes last season and will be a foundation for the squad are Elias Pavia, Sam Horning, Jake Johnson and TJ Lumpkin. There will also be an infusion of new talent in the form of transfers, along with freshman Jagger Topp and sophomore Chase Kardosh.
“We have some senior leadership, but we also have some young guys and some returners,” Ellis said. “We have a good chance to be a pretty good basketball team if we’re able to put it all together on the defensive side of the floor. I’ve told my team multiple times that our defense will spark our offense.”