As its season was heading in an ominous direction, the Hudson boys basketball team desperately needed a lift from its star player.
Instead, the Explorers got a measly three points from their renowned alpha male in a crucial conference game on the road.
Not exactly what one would have in mind considering that Hudson was 3-6 heading into that contest.
To make matters even worse, the opponent was a very talented Twinsburg squad that had its eyes on capturing the conference prize.
Yes, Jack Burdett, a 6-foot-6 center who has been the focal point of the Explorers’ offense for the last three seasons, had let his team down.
Therefore, Burdett’s performance was completely unacceptable, right?
If you ask Hudson head coach Jeff Brink, brace yourself for a piercing stare and perhaps a few not-so-pleasant choice words.
For starters, the Explorers upset the Tigers by a 64-57 score. While Burdett’s scoring total was rather meager, so were his shot attempts.
He tossed the ball toward the rim just twice against Twinsburg’s bound and determined defense.
And one may want to keep this in mind too: Burdett finished with 12 rebounds and six assists.
Thus, the versatile senior’s so-called off-night doesn’t look so disastrous now, does it?
Not at all, says his favorite cheerleader.
"How many guys who are the top 10 scorers in their program take two shots in a big league game and not say a word?" Brink asked. "He was perfectly happy with it. That doesn’t happen in today’s world."
No coach, it certainly doesn’t.
In a world where ball-dominant point guards rule with an iron fist, Burdett could be considered somewhat of a throwback.
At the same time, the soft-spoken giant also represents everything about the extraordinarily unconventional modern game.
How is that possible?
From a traditional standpoint, Burdett finished his remarkable career as the all-time leader in rebounds (698) and blocked shots (136). He also played more varsity games (93) than any other male basketball player who ever wore navy blue and white colors.
Sticking to the norms, Burdett also ranks seventh on the school’s all-time scoring list (934).
And then this is where things get a bit wacky.
Ready for this one? Burdett will leave Hudson High School as the team’s all-time leader in … wait for it … career assists. He has dished out 246 helpers for the Explorers.
In other words, eat your heart out, Bill Walton and Nikola Jokic.
"I would say that this is definitely my favorite record," Burdett said of his assist total. "It speaks so much more about who I am as a player than the rest of [the records].
"Of course, it would be nice to be the top scorer in school history, but I believe this statistic shows just as much my all-around skill for the game as well as my unselfishness.
"More importantly, it shows that my teammates can certainly hit some shots. I appreciate it the most because it shows that I am more than just a post presence, but rather a player with a great understanding for the game."
His teammates got a better understanding of the game too. Much better.
In fact, you could argue they were geniuses when the body of work was completed. That’s because Hudson, starting with its huge win over the Tigers, won 13 of its next 14 games. That impressive stretch included an 11-game winning streak. The Explorers finished 16-8 despite their rough start, which included a head-scratching 51-43 loss to Suburban League National Conference rival Stow-Munroe Falls.
By the way, that disappointing setback took place just a few days before the beginning of Hudson’s astonishing 180-degree turnaround.
"After we lost at Stow, we started off the next day’s practice in the classroom looking at film and deciding whether we wanted to let the season go down the drain or try our best to make it something special," Burdett said. "We needed a wake-up call and our embarrassing performance at Stow and Coach Brink’s leadership pushed us to start playing differently."
As the numbers suggested, it worked out pretty well, thanks mainly to the Explorers’ new "point forward." Sure, Burdett continued to do work in the post like he had done so many times in the past. For much of his senior season, though, Burdett became more and more comfortable as a ball-handler and distributor.
Such a revelation was exactly what Brink had envisioned from the beginning.
"We used Jack in a variety of capacities," he said. "His strength is his ball-handling. We used him as our press breaker. We also used him a lot in the high post as a passer. Since he’s such a good passer, it allowed us to take advantage of matchups."
Burdett, who has been playing hoops since first grade, ended his senior season with a variety of impressive statistics. He averaged 13 points, 8.2 rebounds, five assists and two blocks per game while shooting a sizzling 58 percent from the floor. The two-time All-Suburban League National Conference first-team performer averaged 11.3 points and 10.6 rebounds as a junior and 12.4 points and nine rebounds during his sophomore season.
Besides his record for career assists, Burdett’s other favorite accomplishment has little to do with scoring, passing or rebounding. Instead, it has a lot to do with a desk, a pen and a laptop.
Burdett, whose grade point average is at least a couple hundred miles north of 4.0, recently earned All-Ohio Academic honors. He plans to continue excelling in the classroom at The Ohio State University in Columbus.
And yes, he’s going to leave the basketball in the garage — for good.
"Academics has always been the most important thing in my house," Burdett said. "I am certainly more proud of my accomplishments in the classroom because I think it speaks more to my work ethic than basketball does.
"I believe the mentality of always working hard in which I learned in school is also a great factor that I attribute to my success on the basketball court. Being chosen as a member of the All-Ohio Academic team is certainly my proudest achievement."
Of course, it’s not like basketball was insignificant. While math, science and history were far bigger priorities than cutting, screening or boxing out, Burdett had no problems testing his basketball IQ when he left the classroom.
He enjoyed working with all of his teachers too. That includes a certain mad scientist who has a fondness for turning brutish big men into balletic point guards.
"Playing for Coach Brink was a pleasure and I am grateful every day that I was able to grow up in such a good community with so many adults who truly want to see me and my peers succeed," Burdett said. "Coach Brink is the most dedicated coach I have ever seen as he is willing to drive all the way from Youngstown five to six days each week during the summer and every day during the school year just to help us become better basketball players.
"While the focus was always on basketball, Coach Brink taught us all that basketball is simply a game in which we played in order to prepare us for the real world. He taught us lessons that will be ingrained in his players and most importantly, helped us build relationships that will last a lifetime.
"If I had any advice for young players in Hudson, I would tell them that if they want to learn about hard work and discipline, the first thing they should do is try out for the Hudson basketball team with Coach Brink."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_Gannett.