As a point guard, Eddie Burrows has essentially been running the show for the Renaissance Academy boys' basketball team since first breaking into the starting lineup last season.
Its just that last year there was so much star power taking center stage for the Wildcats, Burrows may have felt like a man behind the scenes.
Burrows will be hard to miss this season, as he comes into his own as the leader of the team and tries to put the Wildcats on his shoulders for an encore playoff run.
"I'm used to being a leader," Burrows says. "It's more responsibility now that the seniors left and I'm the only senior remaining, but it doesn't feel different.
"My mom really taught me to be a leader, not a follower. Everywhere I go, I take that with me."
Last season, there wasn't much that didn't go through the All-CIF senior triumvirate of Gil Tacita, Bryan Bourgeoise and Dushon Carter and behind their scoring prowess the team went far — all the way to the CIF Southern Section Division V-A semifinals.
Burrows is the only senior returner from that team and one of only a small handful of players with any real varsity experience to speak of. As a result, the Wildcats will depend on Burrows to not only keep the offense clicking, but to use his experience to be an effective leader and role model.
"He's a great leader," says teammate Troy Fontinilla, one of a handful of returners, who will also be taking on a bigger role this season. "He leads us on the court and the team goes as he does. His intensity, we try to match it.
"He's definitely a great role model. Everybody looks up to him, everybody learns something from him."
Burrows admits that he and Wildcats Coach Sid Cooke didn't always see eye to eye during his junior season. A big part of Burrows' development during a productive offseason of workouts, practices and summer basketball has been his willingness to adapt to a role that goes beyond playmaking.
"He's really experienced and he's really starting to listen," Cooke says. "We kind of butted heads last year, but I need him to control tempo and he's starting to do it. He's starting to get a lot of steals. He basically gives us that relief with his speed, when we need someone to break the pressure, cut through a double team or when we need someone to get us out of trouble.
"He's learning how to control things, how to really run a pick and roll better than last year. He's a little bit stronger and a little bit quicker. Speedwise, I don't think you're going to see anyone quicker."
Burrows says he's grown accustomed to what Cooke expects and understands the leadership his position entails.
"Last year, I was kind of new to the team and new to [Cooke] being my coach," Burrows says. "But I got used to it and I know what he expects of me and I'm just giving him what he expects and what he wants.
"The coach can just say so much, but it's my job to go on the court and perform and I have to lead the team. I have to execute what he wants, but he can only say so much. I have to go out and execute and make sure my teammates do the same thing."
It will be extra important for Burrows to fill that role as the Wildcats begin the season with the task of bringing their younger players up to speed and figure out where their scoring will now come from in the absence of last year's Big Three.
"We've got to work together as team since we don't have those players who can just create by themselves," Fontinilla says.
Fortunately, Burrows learned a thing or two while logging heavy minutes last year for a team that went 20-9 and won three playoff games before falling against Sierra Canyon in the semis.
Much of the success the Wildcats enjoyed came from Burrows' steady play at the point and the experience paid off in his own development while setting a standard for the program's future — a standard Burrows is determined to uphold.
"It helped me to get ready for the next level," Burrows says of the last playoff run. "The younger guys on the team, they got exposed a little bit and I think they got a taste of what they're going to be getting this year.
"They're inexperienced, but I think it's coming along. Later on in the season, we'll be OK. In the beginning, I think we'll have a little [bit of] cobwebs, but by the time playoffs come around, we should be OK."
It's no stretch to say that as Burrows goes, so will the Wildcats, particularly in the early weeks of the season as new players find their way.
But Burrows is confident that by playoff time in February, Renaissance will be back in the familiar territory of the playoffs.
Burrows is counting on it. The Wildcats, meanwhile, are counting on him.
"He's been here a couple years already, so he's kind of the guy that runs everything," Cooke says. "I don't have to say anything to him. He knows what I want.
"[Last season] was difficult, but also he gained valuable experience because we went far. He got better as the season went on and he had some pretty big games. From last year to this year, it's two different guys and that experience really did help."