By Rick Assad
Sattwik Banerjee managed to pull off a rare feat his senior season at Burbank High when he played two sports while pulling down a 4.3 grade-point average and a 1440 score on the SAT.
Banerjee, who was hurt for much of the season with a left knee injury, played basketball for three and a half seasons and one season of volleyball.
“Although I was hurt and was unable to play to my full capabilities, I still gave 100 percent every practice and every game,” he said. “I think that I played pretty well given my circumstances, and that I left everything out on the court. My continuation of play was primarily thanks to our trainer Nick Cascelli, who helped me keep my knee as healthy as possible and treated me after every game. I definitely could not have played how I did were it not for him, and my team.”
Banerjee’s senior hoop season was spectacular after averaging 26.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.4 blocks and one steal per game.
His scoring average was the second highest for seniors in the state and 14th best overall in the state.
“Sometimes it was difficult being the first option because other teams would key in on me and make it very difficult for me to get good shots or any looks at all, however my team did a good job of working around this,” Banerjee pointed out. “Whenever this kind of situation occurred, someone would always step up and take charge and it was always someone different. This helped lift some pressure off of my shoulders in some of our games.”
Banerjee, who will attend Pasadena City College and major in data science for one year and then transfer to a UC school, played his best and last high school game against rival Burroughs where he scored 52 points in a 75-71 loss to the host Bears.
“My last game against Burroughs was my best game that I’d ever had. Everything was falling and I felt completely in control. It was the fruition of so much hard work with former Burbank Coach Sid [Cooke] and Coach Ron [Mosley] over the last four years, and I think that was the highest level of basketball I have ever played.”
Banerjee, who accounted for more than 1,000 points in his career, was locked in that night but wasn’t keeping track of how many points he was pouring in.
“It was an amazing feeling, but I wasn’t aware of how much I scored because I was just focused on trying to close the lead Burroughs had over us and potentially win that game,” he said. “It was a game I’ll never forget.”
Banerjee, who stands six-foot-3 and is a shooting guard/small forward, said having an explosive game wasn’t something he could sense beforehand.
“I actually couldn’t tell if I was going to have a good game or not,” he said. “There have been instances where in the warmups my shot feels really good, but in the game, I can’t get anything to fall, and there have been times where I haven’t been as confident in myself as I normally am and have great games. Usually though, I always had a sense that I would perform to my best ability.”
Cooke feels that if not for the knee injury, his numbers would have been even better.
“Sattwik was a dedicated and consistent player whose attention to details contributed to his rapid improvement over the last two years,” he said. “I truly believe if he didn’t tear his meniscus early in the season, his numbers, which were already impressive, would have been phenomenal.”
Hard work isn’t something that scares Banerjee. In fact, it’s something he welcomes.
“Athletic competition brings out the best of everyone who participates, and it demands hard work,” he noted. “Having been participating in athletics for practically my entire life, I’ve been able to see lots of different kinds of people. Some who didn’t work hard and played poorly, and some who worked incredibly hard and played well. You can’t cheat in this kind of competition, which is what makes it such an amazing thing.”
The day of the game was something Banerjee always looked forward to and tried to prepare for.
“To get ready for a game I would always listen to music throughout the day. Music would help me get in the mood I needed to and it helped me focus during a game,” he said. “I usually had some extra time on the bus or at home so I would get a light meal in and take a quick nap to recharge my body, then I would drink lots of water and head over to the gym. That’s all I needed to get ready for a game.”
Peering at his recent past, Banerjee has no regrets.
“Over my athletic career at BHS, what has stood out to me was the support from our students and school and the environment that we were allowed to play in,” he said. “Brimming with competition and players looking to make names for themselves in our league, it created a great environment to produce good basketball.”
A recent graduate, Banerjee is pleased with how his career came together.
“All things considered, I loved playing sports at BHS. The environment was always top tier, and the opportunity to be able to play in front of so many friends was definitely a surreal experience that I will never forget,” he said.
This journey which ended that night versus Burroughs, will remain something vivid for Banerjee.
“In middle school I was able to attend a BHS basketball game, and the gym was packed with students and parents and the energy was incredible,” he said. “After attending that game, the expectation was set for my high school career, and I have to say that those expectations were met. Everything was exactly how I had imagined for four straight years, the last one being the best by far.”
There will be many people that Banerjee will think fondly about from his time on the Burbank campus.
“I’m going to miss the people and the teachers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting at BHS the most,” he said. “They all helped me survive through four tough years, and hopefully I’ll be able to meet them down the road.”