By Brandon HENSLEY
He’s not the tallest player on the court, nor is he the bulkiest, but Kevin Dinges is sure making his presence felt this summer for the Crescenta Valley High School basketball team.
The junior forward has helped the Falcons to an impressive 9-3 summer league record so far, including a dominant 60-41 win over Village Christian on Tuesday night at Burbank High School.
Dinges was aggressive all game, getting to the free-throw line six times and tallying 11 points. If he can keep up his level of play, CV has to like its chances in the fall.
It’s a new look for the Falcons as they continue forward this summer. The team that went 23-9 this past season has lost players that all made appearances in the starting lineup at some point: Cole Currie, Nick Springer, Ryan Schloessmann, Kris Jaborian and Elliot Wilson.
At times last year, guard Berj Krikorian and center Eric Patten also started. They’ll be counted this year as starter for sure, but CV will also look to Dinges, who played on the junior varsity squad in 2012-13.
“I think it’s the intensity, first of all,” Dinges said of his experience on varsity so far. “The intensity is so much higher. The physicality is different. I can’t tell you how excited I am to come on the court from playing JV last year. It’s a whole new experience.”
Coach Shawn Zargarian said last week Dinges possesses a good skill set, and that was easy to see Tuesday. His length allows him to block shots, stealing passes in the lane, and he can run the floor and either finish at the basket or step back for a jump shot.
Dinges made just one field goal on Tuesday, preferring to take the ball inside and create contact.
“I was running the floor a lot today, and getting outlet passes from my guards and getting open, so I got to the line,” he said.
The Burbank summer games are made of 20-minutes halves, with running time. Players only get one free throw attempt, and a make is worth two points, so for the record, Dinges’ four makes at the line counted as eight points.
Krikorian liked Dinges’ game against Village, save for one easy play he didn’t convert.
“I think he’s playing really well, besides that one missed layup, but he’s playing really well,” Krikorian said with a smile. “He’s a quiet guy but he’s slowly starting to get out of his comfort zone and really lead everyone else. We’re a young team this year so we as juniors have to step up and take leading roles.”
The Falcons have won seven of their last eight games, including four of five wins in a tournament at Chaminade High School recently. Both Dinges and Krikorian have the same answer as to why the team is playing well.
“I think it’s the chemistry,” Dinges said.
“The chemistry is getting better every game, and the more we move the ball, the more push – because we like to run – the more we get open shots, and guys like Arin [Pezeshkian] and Eric [Bae] knock down threes,” Krikorian said.
Pezeshkian and Bae combined to hit several 3-pointers against Village, something they’ll be asked to do on a nightly basis when the games start to count.
Zargarian is also getting a look at Kyle Currie, younger brother of Cole, who was Pacific League co-MVP this past season.
Kyle, a junior, is several inches shorter than his older brother, but he played tall on Tuesday. In the first half he snatched a loose ball and dribbled all the way down to CV’s basket before spinning in traffic and finding Patten for a layup. In the second half, he nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
Village started the game leading 7-2, but CV went on a 23-0 run after that and led 31-12 at halftime. Krikorian said the Falcons stood up to the Crusaders’ size and got physical with them, including snuffing out their screens for their shooters when they were on offense.
Patten was also big in the game, scoring 17 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
But the offense starts with Krikorian, the point guard who seemed to find his way midway through last season. Because of his position, he’ll always be a distributor, but so far this summer he’s not hesitating to shoot the ball from anywhere, something he’s worked on a lot in recent months.
“I definitely feel more comfortable,” said Krikorian, who scored nine points to go with five assists. “I’ve worked on it a lot, and my role on the team is bigger this year. But I don’t like to force stuff. Whatever the defense gives me.”
Because Krikorian is now an experienced varsity player, he’ll probably have to be called upon to do some heavy lifting in tight games, but he said whatever area he’ll need to concentrate on that given night, he’ll do.
“If I don’t have to score at all, just get 12 assists, 15 assists, I’ll do it,” he said.