By Eddie Mayrose
It was a few hours before the NFC Championship game. A few hours before Vernon Davis, during the most critical game in which he or any of his teammates had ever played, decided that he was more important than any of them; jumping up on a television platform in a “me first” display that cost the Niners 15 yards. Davis’ stunt was exactly the kind that generally saddens me, serving as a reminder that the reasons I fell in love with team sports have long been forgotten.
This time, however, I wasn’t all that upset. This time, I had just finished watching a great player dedicate himself to his teammates and revel in their shared success. This time, Dillon Burns made Vernon Davis look silly.
Burns, a senior guard at Xaverian High School, had the game of his life on Sunday, scoring a career-high 33 points in an upset win over Christ the King, previously undefeated in league play. He missed just two shots from the field, handled the ball flawlessly against the Royals’ pressure and was 6-for-6 from the charity stripe in the game’s final minute as the Clippers closed out the win. Afterward, when interviewed by the MSG Network, which had broadcast the game and introduced his wonderful style of play to the entire city, Burns remained “team first.”
“It’s more about the team,” said Burns, an honors student who recently accepted a scholarship to play basketball at C.W. Post. “I don’t think I care individually about what people think of me. I’d rather the team win and us succeed and move on.”
Others’ opinions of him have undergone a huge transformation since the beginning of the season. At 5’7”, he was dismissed by some coaches who were concerned about his size. Those concerns started to abate during the summer, as Burns became a standout at a number of college showcase camps by doing what he does best — making his teammates better.
That quality stands out more than any other to his coach, Jack Alesi.
“Dillon cares about his teammates. He cares about doing things the right way. I’ve coached for a long time and if I coach another 30 years, I won’t get a kid like this again,” Alesi said.
While Burns has always been considered an elite player within the Xaverian program, he has only recently gained prominence across New York City. Still serving as the team’s playmaker, he has expanded his game and also leads the Clippers in scoring. His reputation has grown to the point that he is now a priority for opposing coaches as they gameplan to stop Xaverian. With SMU-bound teammate Brian Bernardi sharing the backcourt, the Clippers have become a very difficult team to handle.
“Pound for pound, inch for inch, the best player in the Tri-State area,” exclaimed MSG’s Mike Quick.
Not that any of this success occurred by accident, as the senior guard’s workout regimen is as intense as it gets.
“I’m so happy that Dillon has had this opportunity to experience a season like this,” his father Tom said. “He spent the entire summer jumping rope because he knows, at his size, he has to be as fast as he possibly can to succeed. I’m very pleased that all of his hard work is paying off.”
To hear Dillon Burns talk about his love of basketball is to realize how wonderful a sports experience can be for someone that understands what’s important.
“The greatest memory I have so far was winning the city championship as a sophomore on the JV team,” he recalled. “I’ve never felt anything as great as when that buzzer went off and we all went crazy. To have done that together, with everyone working hard, was just an awesome feeling.”
Kinda makes you feel sorry for Vernon Davis.
As I Sit and Think … This weekend, Bill Parcells is expected to gain election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. While he’s generally regarded as the best coach in Giants’ history, I wonder how he’d be treated by the fans that so revere him were he the head man today. Tom Coughlin, whose resume is actually very similar to the Tuna’s, seems to fight an annual battle to keep his job, despite his sustained success. In this new world of social media, in which everyone has a public forum to voice an opinion, could Parcells have survived his first season, one in which he posted a 3-12-1 record just a year after Ray Perkins led the team to the playoffs? ... Make me watch the Pro Bowl … When was the last time an American League preview didn’t have the Yankees and the Red Sox battling for the pennant? With the signing of Prince Fielder, though, the Tigers join the Rangers as the favorites to represent the junior circuit in the World Series … Joe Paterno’s death last Sunday adds another sad element to the tragic chain of events touched off at Penn State when the Sandusky sex abuse scandal broke. For much of the week, apologists have pointed to the amount of good that Paterno did in his long tenure at the university, offering different versions of this often-heard quote: “He wasn’t the one that abused those kids.” I beg to differ. From the very moment that Paterno was advised of Sandusky’s crimes and chose to do nothing, he was every bit as culpable for each case of abuse that followed. No matter how much good you do in your lifetime, if you turn a blind eye to child abuse for the better part of two decades, you die a bad guy.