By Rick Assad
The task is a tall one, no doubt, but the Burbank High and Burroughs boys’ basketball teams are each gunning for the top spot when it comes to the Pacific League standings, hoping to unseat Pasadena.
The Bulldogs are athletic with dependable shooters and defenders and will be led Sid Cooke, who has an impressive and deep resume, having coached Renaissance Academy to a pair of CIF Southern Section championships across 16 years.
“We’re trying to build a culture. Commitment and accountability. Do the right thing every time,” said Cooke, a first-year coach at Burbank, who was also an assistant coach at Glendale Community College for three years. “They do play hard, but they’ve got to play different as far as the understanding of the game.”
Burbank played well last season after going 17-12 and 8-6 in league for fourth place.
The Bulldogs fell to La Canada 57-43 in the opening-round of the CIF Division II A playoffs.
Burbank will not have shooting guard Miles D’Agostin, who averaged just over 26 points and was selected All-CIF second team, because of graduation.
Cooke is a tough taskmaster who demands perfection on the court, but knows how to motivate.
Four players were on last year’s squad and they will be asked to lead Burbank on the floor.
Kevin Sarkes is a 6-foot-5 senior center who will rebound, play solid defense and shoot in the paint.
“We have a good group of guys,” he said. “We hope to capture the first league title in a long time, it’s been about 20 years. And then heading to CIF, we’ve been knocked out two years in the first round. Our goal is to capture the first CIF title.”
Senior Ben Burnham (6-0) is a standout wide receiver on the football team and will offer grit, points, hard-nose defense and rebounds from the point guard position.
“Transitioning from football to basketball is not that hard. I’m not in basketball shape,” he said. “We’re looking to do some damage in league. We’re focusing on getting better every week.”
Senior shooting guard Leo Tahmasian (6-0) is a clutch long-range artist who can score points in a hurry.
“Three coaches in three years. Yes, it’s not easy, but when you have a great coaching staff it’s pretty easy to adjust,” he said. “They have a system in place.”
Sarkes then added: “Coach Sid has won multiple championships at different levels,” he said. “His resume speaks for itself. He’s a great coach. We have a great group of guys. I’m very confident in what we can do this year whether it’s in league or CIF. We’ve got a good core and a good group of guys to build around.”
Junior shooting guard/small forward Abiel Pearl (6-3) is athletic and a leaper who has a soft touch in the paint, is a ball hawk on defense and a splendid rebounder.
There are four other seniors on the team and they include shooting guard Gor Keshishyan (6-2), shooting guard Danny Contreras (5-7), shooting guard A.J. Blake (5-10), small forward/power forward Craig Rushton (6-2) and center Greg Zadikian (6-5).
The juniors include point guard Vartan Avetisyan (5-9), shooting guard Elmer Reyes (5-10), small forward Kelton Shea (6-3) and shooting guard Armen Nazarian (6-3).
Three sophomores are on the team and they are small forward J.G. Lambert (6-3), point guard/shooting guard Phoenix Mosley (5-9) and shooting guard Nigel Dickens (6-1).
The Indians are deep in talent this season and hope to forget last season in which they went 11-16 and 4-10 in league for sixth place while missing the postseason.
Four players return and they include senior swingman Emery Goulet, senior point guard Nicholas Garcia, senior shooting guard Carson Cardenaz and reserve forward Tyler Cantrell.
Goulet is a first-team all-league selection, team captain and one of the floor leaders.
Garcia, who was the quarterback for the Indians, will distribute the basketball and look for his shot when it’s available.
Cardenaz played wide receiver and always showed his toughness on the field.
“We are bigger and stronger physically than last year’s team,” Burroughs coach Allan Ellis said. “I think last year’s experience for our starting guards will help us a lot on and off the court for our younger players.”
Ellis knows it’s not going to be easy to capture the league title, but likes what he’s seen.
“We know we are in a tough league, but the majority of these players have been a part of my program for four years,” he said. “We look forward to the challenge and the guys are hungry to show what they are capable of on the basketball court.”
The rest of the backcourt will consist of shooting guard Jase Sadsad, shooting guard Blake Ballard, shooting guard Elijah Duller, shooting guard Evan Zamora and point guard Coleman Chennault.
The frontcourt will be comprised of Jack Nitzsche, Chance Spinks and Corwin Smith, who is 6-6, and will play center.