GLENDALE — One starter — Zareh Zargaryan — just completed his collegiate career at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
Another starter — Narbeh Ebrahimian — was the starting point guard for Glendale Community College this past season.
A third presumed starter — Zareh Avedian — finished his playing career at Cal Lutheran in 2004, but has competed in international tournaments and can still dominate games.
The trio of stars on the Glendale men’s basketball team will join locals who have shined in the area to represent their city and the Homenetmen Ararat Chapter in the fifth annual Pan-Armenian Games in Yerevan, Armenia.
The Pan-Armenian Games begin Saturday and end Aug. 21.
Will all the talent Glendale possesses result smelt into gold at the end?
They all say the answer depends on how much each sacrifices.
“Without sacrifice, you never appreciate what you accomplish,” said Glendale Coach Fred Babadjanians, a former Glendale High girls’ basketball coach, who led a contingent of Armenian athletes to a silver medal in the 2007 Pan-Armenian Games.
“We’re asking them to sacrifice something that’s bigger than them.”
Babadjanians and his players say this team is more talented than the one that took silver.
“It’s the deepest team we’ve had,” said Narbeh Doloukhanian, a 1999 Hoover graduate who is making his fourth trip to Armenia for the international competition. “We are taking a more talented team, but that doesn’t mean anything.”
The talent is deep.
Zargaryan, a 6-foot-6 forward, may be Glendale’s top attraction.
The 2007 Hoover graduate was one of the leaders on a [Division II] Dominguez Hills team that advanced to the NCAA West Region Tournament, averaging 9.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.
He’ll be asked to score, pass and play sturdy defense for Glendale.
“As a team, we’re committed to playing team defense,” Babadjanians says. “That’s supposed to create for our offense. If our defense is going to lead to our fastbreak points, we don’t have to worry about Zareh getting 15 shots a game.”
Zargaryan says he doesn’t need to shoot much.
“There’s so much help on the court,” he added.
That help includes Avedian, a 1999 Hoover graduate.
Avedian is making his sixth trip to Armenia and is all too familiar with the level of competition.
He’s taken on a leadership and teaching role with this year’s team, knowing that Glendale has “a lot of young talent and fresh legs that can get up and down the court.”
“We have five guys on the team who can be the No. 1 guy,” Avedian said.
Other Glendale teams have included talented players as well, but they haven’t been cohesive units. Avedian says Glendale needs to be a strong team to win, just like it did in 2003, when he averaged 32.5 points per contest in leading the locals to their last gold medal.
“The reason we won in 2003 is because we were all friends,” said Avedian, an All-Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference selection at Cal Lutheran. “That’s where this team has to get to.”
Zargaryan praised Avedian’s leadership and knows that Glendale’s opponents have not forgotten about his teammate’s 49-point, 20-rebound performance in the 2003 championship game.
“I’m comfortable with him on the court because he’s respected,” Zargaryan says. “The respect the opponents give him is the respect I’m trying to earn.”
Among the players who have earned his teammates’ respect is Ebrahimian, an All-Western State Conference guard, who also has the ability to take over a game with his scoring. He might also be called upon to become a facilitator whose role is to find is matches.
“Our offense became more a read-and-react more than a robotic-motion offense,” said Babadjanians, who’ll be assisted by Arbi Der-Krikorian and women’s basketball coach Menooa Aboolian. “Our players are being taught to find the mismatches.”
Shara Davoodi and Shara Babakhanians — All-Pacific League selections in 2008 with Hoover — and Doloukhanian, also an all-league pick, will play key roles in creating shots for teammates and scoring when they are called upon.
The rest of Glendale’s roster includes Misak Balian (North Hollywood, 2008), Azad Galustian (Glendale, 2001), Shant Darkjian (Glendale, 2003), Artin Avanessian (Hoover, 1994), Martin Avanessian (Hoover, 1997) and Henrik Sardarbegian (Hoover, 1998).
“Everybody here has been a key player,” said Galustian, who coached the boys’ basketball team at Hoover with Sardarbegian before resigning prior to 2010. “Everybody knows we can win. We have to play as a unit. Each individual on this team knows we’re going to win.”
Each individual has also been working his “butt off,” according to Babadjanians.
“The focus of the players has to be greater than ever before,” he said. “We have to be willing to do whatever it takes to get to our goal.”
Babadjanians’ group isn’t the only team going to Armenia.
Glendale will send a younger men’s basketball team — led by Barsegh Karamanian and Albert Voskanian — to the games.
The team is highlighted by Burbank’s Andre Spight, an All-Pacific League selection this past season. He’ll be joined by Alan Bagatourian, Patrick Baghdasaryan, Aram Darzibashians, Emil Ghookassian, Alec Karamanian, Oshin Mahmoodian, Edwin Manouchehri, Sevada Minassians, Artin Pashai and Sevan Zarifian.
A men’s soccer team and a girls’ volleyball squad will also compete in addition to local athletes taking part in table tennis, mens’ tennis, chess and track and field. Eighty-two athletes, coaches and leaders will represent the city of Glendale in Armenia.