Preview: A New Era Begins in Boys Basketball

Burroughs began the season with a 75-59 victory over Arleta and the first for new coach Austin Pope. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

The local boys’ basketball scene is definitely the beginning of a new era as two of the three local coaches are new.
Burroughs High has brought in former Burbank High star Austin Pope to become just the fifth coach of the program since the late 1980s.

Burbank High will led by coach Steve Eshleman, who spent many years coaching in Pennsylvania before moving to California.

Providence High returns coach Anthony Cosby for a third season after finishing 18-11 last season and winning the Prep League title.


The hiring of Pope has ignited lots of interest in the community, as he had already run a number of local camps and is well liked by many.

“We have a group of kids that are hungry and ready to play basketball. We have a young team as well. I’m very excited to grow with this group,” Pope said. “The way we do play is up-tempo and fast and kind of in-your-face and we had to kind of turn some things around from last year.”

The Bears had a nice group of returners coming back and several players have come on board from crosstown rival Burbank.

Junior point guard Jagger Topp (5-foot-10) returns. He is a co-captain along with senior Chase Kardosh (6-3). Junior Jacob Samontina (5-9) is a solid outside shooter who was outstanding against Glendale High a year ago, leading Burroughs to a win over the team coached by his father.

The Bears will receive a boost once senior Omar Payind (6-3) and sophomore Evan Baker (6-2) sit out the mandatory 30-period after transferring from Burbank High. Payind was a key player for the Bulldogs and Baker has shown lots of promise.

Burroughs has 6-5 junior Landon Everhart and 6-4 sophomores Giordan Lewis and Evan Lanier to help out in the inside.

Seniors Francesco Sabato (6-1), Arthur Gabrielyan (6-1), as well as juniors Elijah Orjuela (5-11), Damian Arredondo (5-11) and freshman Owen Everhart (6-0) give Burroughs added depth.


The Pioneers are the defending Prep League champions and have a solid group returning led by seniors Julian Thompkins (6-3) and Jalen Thomas (6-2), who will play a number of roles.

(Photo by Austin Gebhardt)

“The game is definitely positionless. You have to be a play that can do a number of things well. We don’t have the size that we normally have over the past few years, so a lot of our work has focused on being fast and physical and being great defensively,” Cosby said.

Senior Alex Kizirian (5-10) and sophomore Solomon Huang (5-9) are both fine shooters from the outside.

Sophomore Riley Murphy (6-1) is a rising star who will probably take over the team leadership role after Thompkins and Thomas graduate.

Freshman Madden Velasco (6-1) is a very interesting prospect. His father, Paolo, used to play and coach for the Pioneers. The younger Velasco appears to have a very bright future.

Seniors Ciaran Turner (6-1) and Constantine Tablada (5-8) will offer depth along with juniors Azhuan Hill (5-10) and Jonas Abuel (6-1).

The Pioneers have two transfers in sophomore Griffin Berschneider (6-1), who comes from Sherman Oaks Notre Dame and junior Max Alpert (6-4), who joins from Taft of Woodland Hills.

“I haven’t seen any of our opponents in our league. Our league is full of very good coaches and they are going to get their guys ready to play,” Cosby said.


The Bulldogs enter the season under coach Eshleman as a young group led by 6-0 junior guard Kevin Dehbashian.

On the inside Burbank has juniors Arthur Ambaryan (6-5), Areg Aslanyan (6-3) and senior Beckett Sandaas (6-2).

Sophomores Anthony Jawiche (6-3), Blake Finnigan (6-1) and junior Rami Khozahi (6-2) should help out on the perimeter.

For support in the ball handling roles the Bulldogs has juniors Aren Malekian (5-7), Kamran Alborzian (6-0), sophomore Christopher Ong (5-10), freshman Jonathon Ong (5-3) and senior Eric Terabramians (5-9).

“We are extemely young. We only have two seniors on the roster. In all my years of coaching, I’ve never coached a team like this young before,” Eshleman said. “I’m happy with where we are at and I think we are going to progress. We are going to take lumps, but you learn from them. If you don’t then you don’t move forward. I’m excited. The kids are excited.”