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High Schools | Eric Sondheimer

Burns Works on Ruling the Court

November 11, 2001|Eric Sondheimer

Evan Burns and his father, Bob, made a deal.

Bob used to play point guard for South Gate High and taught Evan all he knew about basketball.

The two would play one-on-one games, with father making sure his son understood who was king of the court.

Bob realized the day would come when Evanruled in hoops. In seventh grade, Evan grew from 6 feet to 6-4. Then came a decisive moment during a park league game.

Evan got his first dunk.

"Oh my God, it was great," Evan said. "Some kid came down and tried to cross me over with a dribble and I stole it from him, ran down court and got the dunk. I went crazy."

Bob saw what was happening. His son was blossoming into a player ready to make the jump to a higher level.

"He told me the first time I dunk on him we were going to stop playing one-on-one," Evan said. "I haven't played one-on-one with my Dad since I was 13."

Smart man, that Bob Burns, because Evan has grown to 6-8 and become one of the top players in Southern California entering his senior season at Fairfax High.

On Wednesday, he'll sign a letter of intent with UCLA, the alma mater of his mother, Shelly.

He averaged 23.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.1 blocks last season. But forget the statistics.

Harvey Kitani believes Burns will be "the best all-around player" he's coached in 21 years at Fairfax because of his work ethic, unselfishness and willingness to learn.

"There's so much room for him to get better," Kitani said. "It's his outlook on the game that allows him to keep getting better. A lot of times, if players don't get enough shots, they're complaining or they go home and their parents tell them, 'You need to shoot more.'

"What it does is hurt kids. Their understanding of the game stops. This kid started many games his sophomore year. Some games he had two, three points and never once did I sense a poor attitude."

There are players who would transfer after a sophomore season if they didn't score enough points or receive enough attention. Not Burns.

A point guard's mentality has been instilled in him by his father, even though he plays forward and center at Fairfax.

"A point guard's job is to see the floor first, then try to make something happen," Burns said. "However we win, if it's me giving a pass to make the basket or me getting the rebound to make the outlet, whatever it takes to win, that's fine with me."

Burns enjoys shooting for hours after school in the Fairfax gym, practicing by himself and working on individual skills. But he was not enamored playing club basketball in the off-season.

"No defense is played on the club teams," he said. "That's why I don't like playing for them. It's not about winning. It's about how good you look. I'm about winning.

"The thing I like about basketball is just basketball. The thing I don't like about basketball are the people who think they know basketball but really don't. Coming to tournaments and hearing guys say, 'I'm going to get you for this, I'm going to get you for that,' I'm not into that."

The best players Kitani has coached at Fairfax, Chris Mills and Sean Higgins, were all-around players who eventually made it to the NBA.

Burns has similar skills and qualities. He can shoot three-pointers, ram home crowd-pleasing dunks, dribble like a guard and play intense defense.

He attended a camp last summer in Washington, D.C., designed to bring together high school players who one day might make it to the NBA.

"It was a great experience," Burns said. "There were a lot of good players and it showed me where I was with my game. I'm pretty good, but there's a lot I need to improve on. I was playing against kids my age with just as much talent."

People have speculated that Burns might be good enough to make himself available for the NBA draft out of high school. He appreciates the compliments but views college as the first step to trying to fulfill his dream of an NBA career.

"I want to develop as a person and basketball player, then see what happens," he said.

He has no time to think about the NBA with school and the probability of having to face Western League rival Westchester four times this season to win the City Championship.

"It's going to be real fun," he said. "I love it every time I play against Westchester. Whatever it takes to win that championship, I'll play them 18 times or one time. We're friends off the court, but when we get onto the court, 'I'm with Fairfax, you're with Westchester."'


Eric Sondheimer can be reached at

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