BURBANK HIGH — The looming dog days of summer may be a slower period for many teams, but for the Burbank High boys’ basketball squad, it’s hardly an offseason.
The Bulldogs concluded their 2010-2011 campaign back in February with a 41-39 first-round playoff loss at Mission Viejo, a team that went on to play for a CIF Southern Section championship.
Burbank finished the season with a 16-12 overall record and graduated senior starting forwards Adam Colman and Chris White.
That campaign came a year after a record-breaking 2009-10 season in which the Bulldogs advanced to the CIF semifinals.
“We did lose a couple of three-year guys that meant a lot to the program,” Burbank Coach Jose Hernandez said. “We definitely feel like we underachieved last year.”
Now, Hernandez is administering the rebuilding process, which accelerates through June and July.
The Bulldogs have plenty of opportunities to stay in the gym, and in game shape. Hernandez is conducting practices which run from 8 a.m. to noon. He estimates the team will play 50 games in seven weeks this summer, including tournament events at both Arizona State University and USC.
“I think we’re definitely one of the more active programs in the summer,” the coach said.
In summer league play, the Bulldogs are off to a 7-1 start, including quality wins over Pasadena, Harvard-Westlake and Chatsworth.
“Early in the summer, it definitely looked better than what I envisioned us to be this time a year,” Hernandez said.
What Burbank is hoping to focus on this summer is simple: team chemistry, game preparation and improving on the court.
“Our team chemistry, I think, is going to be important for us this summer,” Hernandez said. “I think that’s what we lacked last year.”
The Bulldogs will lean on significant contributions from three combo guards — junior Andre Spight, and rising seniors Austin Pope and Remy Youssefi.
“Those three guys are kind of our three-headed horse right now,” Hernandez said.
Sophomore guard Albert Marmol and center Simon Elmoyan, a transfer from Hoover High, round out the Bulldogs’ starting lineup.
Burbank will continue to employ its four-out on the perimeter, one in the post, dribble-drive offensive attack.
“In our offense, everybody is kind of a point guard,” Hernandez explained.
The innovative offensive scheme is said to have been berthed by renowned veteran Coach Vance Walberg, whose coaching stops included Fresno City College, Pepperdine and University of Massachusetts, where he currently serves as an assistant.
University of Kentucky Coach John Calipari utilizes the same up-tempo, dribble-heavy style with the Wildcats, a perennial power who appeared in this year’s NCAA Final Four men’s basketball championship.
Hernandez says Walberg created the offensive principals he uses at Burbank, and that the Bulldogs watch film of Kentucky to continue to master it.
“It’s a Calipari offense,” Hernandez said. “It’s the exact same thing. Calipari actually got it from Walberg, who started it in Fresno.”
More specifically, the coach added: “Our motto is three or key. We look to shoot the three-ball, but we really want to get in the key. We want to attack the basket and get to the [free throw] line.”
However, Hernandez isn’t only focusing on the offensive side of the ball this summer at Burbank.
“We installed this offense three years ago and we’ve been really heavy offensive-minded and I think we’ve gotten away from how our program got to this level and that was defense,” he said. “Our main focus this summer is to get back to our old defensive ways and the offense will take care of itself.”