By Brandon HENSLEY
He hadn’t been back in 20 years, and for one half at least, maybe he wished he had kept it that way. The Crescenta Valley Falcon varsity basketball team was keeping the game close, and Greg Goorjian was struggling.
It was never like Goorjian to struggle when he was one of the Southland’s greatest high school scorers, but now at 56, getting swarmed and beat up by teenagers, the 6’1″ guard put up the proverbial goose egg the first 16 minutes; which is to say, he had no points.
But the tide turned in the second half and Goorjian found the bottom of the net more often than not, as his team of older but bigger players walked away with a 77-68 win at Crescenta Valley High School’s annual alumni basketball game on Nov. 25.
Goorjian scored 14 points, including eight in the third quarter, mostly from various spots close to the basket. To those who saw him play decades ago, it may have been surprising to see where he scored in the alumni game, considering how lethal he was from way outside as a teenager. But this is now, and as Kobe Bryant is currently showing basketball fans, age prevents one doing what he used to do.
Still, Goorjian, whose father Ed was the first head coach at CV, hadn’t played in the game since 1995. He said he came back this time because he could handle the physical demands.
“I get invited every year. I have an open invitation. I just felt that this year I was in pretty good shape,” he said.
Goorjian was a scoring machine for the Falcon program. He was an All-American and CIF Player of the Year in 1978, when he scored 43.4 points per game. The most impressive part was there wasn’t a three-point line back then.
How did he do it?
“I have no idea. I wish there was film I could watch,” said Shawn Zargarian, head coach of the varsity team. Zargarian was a senior in 1995. He remembered Goorjian being so athletic, able to jump, turn and, in mid-air, perfectly square up his body to get a shot off.
“What people say is, if there was a three-point line, Greg would have averaged 50, 50-plus points easily, because 10 to 12 of his shots [a game] were from that distance,” Zargarian said.
Alumni player Barrie Eget, who played in the 1980s, went to social media after the game and wrote Goorjian was his idol growing up, and that he was reason he wore No. 11.
Goorjian, who lives in Las Vegas as a broker, was ganged up on with jersey holding and shoving, so much so that he barked at the referees in the second half for not paying enough attention to that. Zargarian relayed that alumni players told their coach John Goffredo, who led the program from the late 1970s to the late 1990s, that it was one of the more physical games in recent memory.
“It’s really tricky because we tell our guys you don’t want to be dirty, but we have to be physical and try to hit first because they’re so much bigger,” Zargarian said.
Indeed, the alumni were bigger, but let’s be honest – they’re almost always bigger. Goorjian, Eget, Matt Oliver and Jake Willis all gave the varsity, which played without center Chris Reik, fits with their height and bulk. After the game, Goorjian said he was okay with the rough play.
“I didn’t mind it. It’s fine. You just worry if the [varsity] can keep playing like that the whole year,” he said, noting that he was accustomed to it when he played.
“It was physical back then, especially against a team like Pasadena. But remember, we had a big roster. We had guys who were 6’9’.”
The Falcons went 10-4 last year in the Pacific League and lost in the first round of the CIF playoffs, their second straight defeat in that round. In the 2012 and 2013 the team made it to the CIF Division 1A semifinals, and to the state playoffs. But they haven’t been able to replace the size of players on those teams like Rudy Avila, Christian Misi and Eric Patten.
They have a slender scorer in Arin Ovanessian, a senior who will be one of the players to watch in league. But Zargarian is currently touting senior Tadeh Tarverdians, who scored 19 points in the alumni game, including five three-pointers. Since last year, Tarverdians’ role has evolved to where he is a main ball handler, defender and especially a threat to score from the outside.
“Tadeh has been huge for us. He’s one of those guys who is fearless,” Zargarian said.
Goorjain was fearless and, 20 years later, he finally returned. The game was held in a different gym since the last time he was here, but the feelings were the same.
“This [new gym] is wonderful. I felt comfortable here,” he said. “And I know Shawn. I’m happy that he’s doing such a great job with the program.”
Goorjian said he was in good shape, and he proved that statement true. Goffredo did substitute for him, but not often.
“I feel good. John let me go. He let me play a lot of minutes, and I’m happy about that. We talked about it before,” he said.
The starting backcourt for the alumni featured the top two leading scorers in Falcons history, in Goorjian and Jimmy Goffredo (Class of 2003.) Goorjian went on to play for three colleges: Arizona State, UNLV and LMU. Goffredo played his college ball at Harvard University.