Burroughs returns most talent

BURBANK -- Winning a league championship is what every local boys’

basketball player, coach and team strives for.

While it certainly isn’t impossible for Burroughs, Burbank,

Bellarmine-Jefferson and Providence highs to win a title this winter,


all the schools play in competitive leagues that make the road to a

championship a difficult one.

However, playing in a tough league can sometimes help a program,

as Burroughs found out last season, when it advanced to the


quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section IIAA playoffs after a

fifth-place finish in league.

This season, all four teams figure to be competitive in their

respective leagues. Here’s a look at how the season is shaping up


Based on their returning players, the Indians have clearly the

best team in the area. Burroughs (14-14, 2-8 in league), has four

starters back from a team that had a great playoff run, winning three


games, two of which were on the road.

The Indians return a team that is senior-heavy, with just one

junior on the roster.

“We changed our whole attitude when we started league 0-3 last

year,” said Burroughs Coach Art Sullivan, who is entering his 14th

season. “We became a different team. We improved our team


Senior shooting guard Joey Paysinger (6 feet 1) is the Indians’


go-to player, and will be counted on to take all of Burroughs’ big

shots in the clutch. Last season, along with averaging 16.6 points

and three rebounds a game, Paysinger shot 34% from behind the

three-point line, converting 86 shots.

Kris Jones (6-2), who started at center last season and was

outstanding in the playoffs on the boards, should be even more

dominating now that he is Burroughs’ power forward.

Levon Maronyan (6-5), who missed all of last season with a broken

arm, is a reliable center, who, with Jones, should give Burroughs a

strong presence inside. Senior Ben Sullivan (6-4), the coach’s son,

is another player who could make a key contribution in the front


Burroughs is deep at the point-guard position, where the Indians

have Sal Inmaung (5-11) and Jef Radino (5-10). The two alternated

last season and were instrumental in the Indians’ playoff run.

Matt Jackson (6-3) takes over at small forward for Peter St.

Hubert, the lone starter who was lost to graduation. Jackson, who

played junior varsity last year, is a fine outside shooter.

“The only major contributor we lost was Peter, and it was a big

one. But I think we have a better team this year,” Art Sullivan said.

“For us, if we play tough defense, rebound and take care of the

ball, we’ll be tough to beat.”

Last season, St. Hubert was a consistent competitor for Burroughs,

averaging 19.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks a game.


The Bulldogs begin a new era under coach Jose Hernandez, who comes

in with impressive credentials, having been a varsity assistant at

Simi Valley and Goleta Dos Pueblos High, his alma mater

Last season, the Bulldogs had a year to forget, as they had to

forfeit eight games and Coach Dave Goosen was dismissed midseason for

CIF Southern Section and school violations.

Finishing 0-23 last season, Hernandez realizes Burbank can go

nowhere but up.

“I’ve told [the team], if we get one win, that’s one more than

last year,” Hernandez said.

The one positive for Hernandez and Bulldogs heading into the

season is most of the talent on the team will be coming back next


“We’re very young, and won’t start a senior,” Hernandez said.

“We’ll start five juniors, or maybe even a sophomore.”

Junior Greg Olmos (5-9) and sophomore Arno Mardyan (5-6) are

battling it out for the starting point guard spot, and juniors Eduard

Khudanyan (5-9) and Hakop Sogoyan (6-0) are going to compete for

playing time as shooting guards.

Junior Narbeh Awanessi (6-1) figures to be the Bulldogs’ small

forward and Junior Eddy Boada (6-3), who battled injuries last

season, gives Burbank a good power forward.

Junior Serob Oganesyan (6-5) will be the Bulldogs’ center.

“I’m not looking at it as a rebuilding year,” Hernandez said. “Our

seniors don’t have another year. We need to look to win this year and

hopefully we can improve on what we do this year, next year.”

Senior James Demirchift (6-1) is one player who could be a key

contributor off the bench.


The Pioneers have lost a lot of their scoring punch from last

season, when they went 18-6, 10-4 in the Liberty League.

Gone are Harout Messrelian (21 points a game), Ian

Breckenridge-Jackson (16 points a game) -- who is playing at

Occidental College -- and Armen Yousefian, the team’s three leading


Fifth-year Coach Paolo Velasco takes over the full reins of the

program from former co-Coach Robert Mena, who has returned to school

and is obtaining his master’s degree.

Senior Frank Catota (5-11) who was the starting point guard last

year, is the top returning player on the team. However, Catota may be

sidelined for a while after injuring a finger in a scrimmage earlier

this week.

Senior P.J. Sison (5-8), a four-year varsity player, is another

key returner who will take over the point-guard duties from Catota.

“Our best player in the summer was Frank. He led us in scoring and

rebounding. He moved from the point guard to a forward spot,” Velasco

said. “We’re confident P.J. can handle all the point guard


Juniors Mark Azer (6-1) and Andrew Nelson (5-11) give the Pioneers

two athletic frontcourt players, and senior Tommy Boucher (5-9), who

started last season, also figures to play a key role. Senior Justin

Nepomuceno (5-10) is another returner.

Freshman point guard Alex Jacke (5-6) could see significant

playing time and figures to be the Pioneers’ star of the future.

“We’re a better fast-break team,” Velasco said. “We get out on the

break better and we push the ball up the court well.”

A big game for the Pioneers could come Dec. 13 when they visit

Bell-Jeff for their annual cross-town rivalry contest.

“The game with Bell-Jeff is going to be interesting because we’re

guard-oriented and they are post-oriented,” Velasco said.


Eli Essa enters his ninth season as the Guards’ coach and has the

fortune of having two of his best players back from last year’s team

that finished 10-13, 2-8 in the tough Santa Fe League.

Senior Brendon Doyle (6-3), a three-sport standout and All-CIF

football player, is the team’s top returning player, as he earned

second-team all-league honors last year, averaging 14 points and

eight rebounds a game.

Doyle won’t have to focus as much on rebounding this year, because

the Guards have two players with height clogging up the middle.

Senior Brian Alfaro (6-4, 275 pounds), who averaged 10 points and

six rebounds a game last year, returns as the starting center.

Bell-Jeff has also added Alfaro’s offensive line counterpart in

football, Robert Alarcon (6-3, 280), in the front court.

In the backcourt, the Guards’ return senior J.J. Mastropietro

(5-10). Mastropietro will be given the opportunity to handle the

point-guard position.

Senior Joe Lopez (5-7), the most valuable player of the junior

varsity team last year, gives the Guards an outside shooter and

junior Shak Ray Jr. (6-0) is a fine defender who could contribute

either in the backcourt or in the front court.

Senior Jeck Dizon (5-9) figures to help Mastropietro out in the

backcourt and senior Vazzie Meksian (6-2) is an athletic wing player

who will give Bell-Jeff some flexibility.

“The ‘X’ factor is going to be our guard play,” Essa said. “If we

can get the ball to the big guys [we’ll be fine]. They have football

bodies, but basketball skills. They’re all good scorers and

understand their limitations.”

With the help of Doyle, Alfaro and Alarcon, the Bell-Jeff football

team compiled a 7-3 record this past season, but didn’t qualify for

the Division XII playoffs after finishing fourth in the Santa Fe