Converting long-range shots and smothering opponents on defense were trademarks Sean Estes brought to the court each game for the La Cañada High boys’ basketball team.
During the past four seasons, the Spartans won three outright Rio Hondo League championships and split another while advancing to the CIF Southern Section playoffs each campaign.
The 6-foot-7 Estes, a senior forward, continued to evolve while serving as a towering presence for the Spartans.
“It’s just a part of the game,” Estes said. “You have to know where you are on the court at both ends so you can help your team win.
“I trust my teammates and they trust me. When you have everybody comfortable and doing their job, you can win a lot of games. For me, it was about trying to be in the right spot and being able to contribute any way possible. If I got beat on defense, one of my teammates would be there to cover me and I’d do the same thing for them.”
With Estes on the floor, the Spartans were able to win their 25th Rio Hondo League championship since the start of the 1986-87 season. La Cañada went 25-5, 10-0 in league and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division I-A quarterfinals.
Estes averaged a team-leading 20 points and six rebounds per game, was named the league’s co-most valuable player and picked up All-CIF first-team recognition. Fourth-seeded La Cañada made it to the quarterfinals for the fourth straight season, falling on the road to fifth-seeded Loyola, 71-63. Estes collected a game-high 26 points, to go along with five rebounds and four blocks.
It’s because of those accomplishments and more that Estes has been voted the 2016-17 All-Area Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year by the sports writers and editor of the Burbank Leader, Glendale News-Press and La Cañada Valley Sun.
“I took pride in playing smart defense because it’s the most important part of basketball,” said Estes, who averaged 11.4 points, five rebounds and two blocks per game last season to receive All-Area first-team honors. “[La Cañada Coach Tom Hofman] worked with me over the last few years on defense and he’s a great teacher. He explained about getting good position under the basket and how to rebound. Those are the kind of things that stay in your mind during a game.
“It’s been a successful program for such a long time and you understand the history and tradition that’s here when you step on to the court. You try to be the next player who can go out there and contribute. I left it all on the court and I don’t have any regrets.”
During Estes’ tenure, the Spartans finished 96-23, 38-2 in Rio Hondo League, including 22 league wins in a row to end his career.
Hofman, who took over the program in 1986, said Estes made improvements to become a well-rounded player.
“He’s fun to coach and that’s got a lot to do because of his work ethic,” said Hofman, who led the Spartans to CIF championships in 1992 and 2011. “When Sean gets hot, he can carry the team for long stretches. He’s not intimidated, either.
“He worked hard at becoming a much better inside defender. He could block or alter shots well. He became a strong interior defender. He also brought a scoring presence, especially making the long shots.”
Estes averaged 19.5 points and six rebounds in two playoff games. The Spartans earned a first-round bye and then posted a 60-53 win against San Clemente before falling to Loyola.
La Cañada senior guard Justin Kouyoumdjian, who shared the league MVP honor with Estes, said Estes proved to be the consummate teammate.
“When we first came to La Cañada, we were the only two freshmen on the varsity team,” said Kouyoumdjian, who contributed 18 points, four assists and two steals per game this season. “That brought us that much closer together and we were able to feed off of each other.
“We had to fight for playing minutes with a lot of the older players and we eventually got the chance to start. I could see him improve in a lot of different areas and I’m very proud to have been his teammate these last four seasons.”