At either end of the court, Koko Kurdoghlian had a penchant for attacking the basket.
No matter the location, the La Cañada High boys’ basketball player handled a variety of responsibilities well for a program rich in tradition.
Arguably known most for his shooting, Kurdoghlian, a senior guard, proved to be the consummate rebounder for La Cañada, as well.
Kurdoghlian became the program’s all-time leading rebounder and finished with 906 rebounds. He eclipsed the mark of 785, set by Chad Givins from 1986-89.
“It’s something I take great pride in,” Kurdoghlian said. “You work your tail off for so long to be good in something and rebounding became an area in which I could help my team.
“It wasn’t really a goal of mine to break the rebounding record. You’re taught to go after the ball on either side of the floor. It’s just about being able to box out and then jump up to get the ball. It’s pretty cool to break the record.”
Kurdoghlian helped the Spartans get plenty accomplished throughout the season.
Kurdoghlian averaged 13 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.3 steals per contest this season. He helped La Cañada go 26-4, 10-0 in the Rio Hondo League and get to the CIF Southern Section Division IV-AA quarterfinals. Also, Kurdoghlian was named the league’s co-most valuable player and was bestowed with All-CIF first-team accolades.
It’s because of those accomplishments and more that Kurdoghlian has been chosen the 2016 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. It marked the first time the University of California-bound Kurdoghlian received the recognition.
“It’s just so important to know your role and watch a lot of game film so you can step on the court and be prepared for any given situation,” said Kurdoghlian, whose sister, Kristina, and cousin, Sarah Kurdoghlian, helped the school’s girls’ team reach the CIF Southern Section Division III-A and CIF State Division IV Southern California championship games. “You need to know how to be in position to know the flow of the game and be a facilitator so you have all of your teammates involved at the same time.
“The more you play, the more you have a feel for the game. You can’t always predict what’s going to happen during the game, so you have to stay a step ahead to try figuring things out.”
As the division’s top seed, the Spartans picked up playoff victories against Northview at home and San Luis Obispo on the road. La Cañada saw its bid to win the program’s third CIF championship fall short after a 68-60 home loss against San Gabriel Academy. Kurdoghlian finished with 14 points and eight rebounds against San Gabriel.
“We had a real good season,” Kurdoghlian said. “We were in a new division and we beat some good teams during the regular season and playoffs. We just didn’t go as far as we wanted.
“It turned out to be a very fun season because we had a lot of excellent players. We did everything we could.”
La Cañada senior guard Grant Arthur said Kurdoghlian served as the Spartans’ chief catalyst.
“He’s just an amazing rebounder and one of the best guards I’ve seen at the high school level,” said Arthur, an all-league pick who averaged 9.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. “It stood out the way he knew how to track the ball.
“He seemed to become more consistent with each game and you could rely on him at all times. He also had a scoring mentality. He’s a very reserved person and you are glad to have him on your team.”
Veteran La Cañada Coach Tom Hofman, who has led the Spartans to 24 league championships and two CIF titles since taking over the program in 1986, normally gave Kurdoghlian the freedom to set the tempo on the court for the Spartans during a contest.
Like so many previous guards who came through the program, Kurdoghlian handled the role well.
“When you look at a guard, you looked for versatility,” said Hofman, who was tabbed the division’s coach of the year. “There’s a lot of things that Koko did so well, starting with his rebounding, but he could also score.
“He had a nose for the ball on the defensive end and great hands and that’s an excellent combination to have. When he fought for the ball, you knew he’d come away with it. Most of the time, Koko was undersized. I told him after his freshman year that if he kept up his pace he’d be able to shatter the [rebounding] record. I saw him as a natural rebounder who could take control of the game. I know that going forward, it’s going to be very hard to replace him.”