Before Jalen Burgess spoke about his accomplishments this season, he wanted to make one thing clear.
That state title that his Elmont boys basketball team won on March 12, the first in school history? That Final Four MVP trophy he collected?
“It was an amazing feeling,” Burgess said, “but it was not only for us. It was for all the players that played in the past to build this program to where it’s at. We did it for the community.”
Not an insignificant comment from a player in his first year with the program. The senior forward transferred from Cardozo, a storied Queens program, during the summer, but he immediately clicked with Elmont coach George Holub and the Spartans.
“He came in here and he fit right in with these guys,” Holub said. “He understood that we were trying to win a county championship, and he would do whatever was necessary.”
The Spartans (23-3), who will look to add a Federation title to its resume this weekend, won a lot more than a county championship, downing Harborfields in the Long Island final to earn a trip upstate. They defeated Byram Hills, 50-48, in the Class A state semifinals and Troy, 57-43, in the championship. Burgess averaged 15 points in the Final Four, including a 19-point, six-rebound effort in the final.
“Since I didn’t play that much at Cardozo, I think I had a lot more to prove,” Burgess said. “I had to show the people the reason I deserved to play so I had a chip on my shoulder.”
Burgess was a key player all year, starting and ranking third on the team with 12.7 points per game.
“I may not have the most points, may not have the best everything,” Burgess said, “but I think I play an overall game, so therefore it just makes everything work out. I think I play best on the bigger stage.”
Said Holub, “He’s been playing better and better over the last three weeks. He’s shooting a lot better, playing with a lot of confidence. He’s really playing like a champion.”