of Chris Sailer (UCLA), Dan Cotti (UCLA), J.K. Scott (Washington) and
Joe Cesta (Arizona State) have been able to earn spots with big-time
NCAA Division I universities.
The city's schools have even been able to turn out successful
baseball players over the years, as standouts like Frank Sullivan
(Boston Red Sox), Ralph Botting (Anaheim Angels), Jeff Cirillo
(Seattle Mariners) and Mike Magnante (most recently the Oakland
Athletics), have made it to the major-league ranks.
However in basketball, the high schools have had problems priming
players for success after high school prior to the 1990s.
Yes, there has been the occasional Lynn Shackelford (three NCAA
titles for UCLA in the 1960s), but players going on to college used
to be few and far between.
But recently, one local school is pushing to turn Burbank into a
basketball town by sending a crop of athletes to college.
And surprisingly, that school is Bellarmine-Jefferson High -- an
institution of under 400 students.
"Right now, nine of my former players are playing in college,"
Guards boys' Coach Eli Essa said. "I am very proud of the fact that
we are helping players continue their careers in college."
Granted, the Bell-Jeff boys' and girls' programs aren't sending
all their players to bastions of hoop supremacy like UCLA, Duke,
University of Connecticut or Kentucky. However, just the fact that
these players are finding a place to play on the collegiate level is
a tribute to the school and its basketball coaches.
Along with Essa, Bell-Jeff players have benefited in recent years
from the help of Athletic Director and girls' Coach Bryan Camacho,
former girls' Coach Jess Rodriguez and former Athletic Director and
girls' Coach Jim Couch.
"It also helps that we have had some good players come through the
Bell-Jeff basketball program in recent years," Essa said. "We have
had some very good talent who have found homes at colleges across the
The list of Division I players from the school in recent years is
* Tyler Kealey -- Left last week to join the men's program for
his freshman season at Grambling State University in Louisiana.