By Arion Armeniakos
Special to Las Positas Athletics
Winning basketball teams are not just about standout scorers. You also need selfless players who are willing to do the dirty work that doesn't always register on the stat sheet. Las Positas Hawks sophomore forward Wesley Burse is just that kind of player.
Burse is Mr. Intangible on the basketball court. He's also a warrior.
Often tasked with guarding the opponent's best player, the 6-foot-5 Burse has a deft touch on offense and a great feel for the game. His grit and work ethic are priceless for his team.
"He's like a Swiss army knife," Hawks coach James Giacomazzi said. "He has been a stabling force for our team. He's able to guard multiple positions; he understands our defensive and offensive concepts. He can play inside, in the high post, on the perimeter. He's been our Mr. Stability. A guy you can count on."
Burse is averaging 12 points and 6 rebounds a game for a team ranked 19th in the Feb. 3 CCMBCA State Top 30. The Hawks improved to 17-7 overall and 7-3 in the Coast-North with a 133-81 rout of Canada on Friday, setting a school record for points in a game.
Even though Burse improved his scoring average by three points this season and upped his field goal percentage to 52%, his trademark is agility and commitment on defense. He leads the team in taking charges and is second only to Michael Hayes in blocked shots per game.
Burse also registers countless deflections which lead to extra possessions. He's always aware of when to step up to double-team or when to stay behind and slide over if a teammate gets beat off the dribble.
Burse's willingness to sacrifice and fill out whatever role is necessary to help the team win hasn't gone unnoticed.
"People respect him because of his work ethic and because he shows up every day to compete," Giacomazzi said. "He's earned that respect from his teammates, and also from the opposition in the conference. He's super competitive and he's got a lot of fire and passion for the game.
"This season, he's a lot more under control. He doesn't force a lot of things. His understanding of what his role is, how he can pick his spots and be effective has improved."
It's not easy, particularly in college when you're trying to make a name for yourself, to take on the role of being the quiet leader. Burse does receive his fair share of plaudits, but for him, it's all about winning. Everything else gets put in the rearview mirror.
"At the end of the day, it's all about winning for me," Burse said when talking about his role on the team. "I'm just filling my role and doing what I need to do. Whatever the coach needs me to do. Winning is the most important thing to me."
Moreover, Burse credits a lot of his development to the time and work that he has put in at Las Positas.
"I feel like these last two years here at LPC have really helped me develop as a player," Burse said. "The instincts and confidence are definitely some of the things I've learned over time. I also feel way more confident than I was when I came here. My game has improved a lot. I'm shooting better and I've gained a lot of leadership qualities."
While acknowledging the strides he has made, Burse's reserved persona did not allow him to get too ahead of himself in self-praise. He feels like he can play better and knows that the team is capable of more too.
"I've improved for sure, but I still feel like I can perform better," Burse said. "We've all performed in the big games that we've needed to step up in, but we've also let a few slip away; we just need to make a push now over the last couple of weeks to be the best versions of ourselves heading into the playoffs."
A kinesiology major, Burse is in his second and final year at Las Positas, but his focus lies solely in between the lines when it comes to his short-term goals.
"I want to make it to the Final Four," Burse said. "I think if we all play our best games up to what we are capable of, then we can go all the way, honestly.
"And beyond Las Positas, I want to get a scholarship at a four-year school and continue playing while also getting a degree to take me out of school. Then, if I can keep playing somewhere, I'd love to."
Burse and Giacomazzi are working to iron out the creases in the team's performances before the playoffs. The hopes and expectations are high from everyone on the loaded roster.
Not surprisingly, Burse urges the team to lock in collectively and understand that their offense comes from the defense. Giacomazzi seems focused more on the mental side of the game, wanting players to compete at a maximum level.
"I just want our guys to stay the course, play their butts off, and whatever happens at the end of the day, you can look yourself in the mirror and say that you gave it all that you had," Giacomazzi says.
That mindset, of course, is always present in Burse. He's a man for every challenge.