BY PETER BRUNWASSER
Peru, known primarily as a soccer country, has seen a spike in basketball interest in recent years.
Peru has been importing talent to its country and now fans get to see a player like West Nyack native Brandon Burnett, who can dunk, consistently score and lead the league in rebounds.
Burnett, a former RCC standout, was signed to the basketball team called InterCECA in the LBN – Liga Basketball National, where they play internationally, for a chance to enter the Pan American basketball tournaments. During his 2013 season he was able to help his team reach second place in the international tournament and was recognized as the leading rebounder for the international tournament.
An International Business major, the 28-year-old Burnett is living up to his vision of traveling the world, albeit for the business of playing basketball, perhaps not what he was expecting when he studied in college. Before hooking up with the Peruvian squat, Burnett played a season of semi-pro basketball with the Manhattan Pride in New York City as power forward/center, averaging four blocks, nine rebounds and 10 points a game. “My goal on that team was mostly to rebound,” he said.
During the summer of 2013, Burnett received a call from his former RCC basketball teammate and good friend Nate Young. Burnett tells us, “Nate Young got a contract to play in Peru and needed someone that could do exactly what I did. They needed a role player who was not selfish with the ball. When you’re a real professional, when you’re needed to step up and do certain things, you need to step up and be a team player.”
We reached out to Nate Young through Facebook, since he is now in Bolivia playing for a new team. Nate confirms, “He [Burnett] did a lot of intangible things, he was a team player. I didn’t have to worry about him hurting the team.”
Burnett was given a mid-season contract July – Dec. 2013 for the Sporting Moral basketball team located in Arequipa, Peru in the Liga Masculina. Here he joined forces with Young to play together on Sporting Moral.
Burnett assures us that it is not easy playing international ball. The height helps, but there is a lot more contact that is allowed overseas, which makes up for the skillset levels. “I wouldn’t say it’s easier. Because of my size I am always guarded by an American from the opposite team.”
Average height for Peruvian players is 5’7 with a few big guys who top out at 6’4″. When they look at the 6’9″ Burnett, what Peruvians see is a giant.
Burnett’s reiterates his US coach’s proverb: “’They can teach you the skills, but they can’t teach size’ and being 6’9 that helps me a lot.”
After two months of play, Burnett was recognized by a team who competes in the international games called “Club InterCECA” located in the city Cajamarca, Peru. Because it was a national team, he was able to waive his current contract with the Sporting Moral team and sign over to Club InterCECA. Burnett received several offers to join other teams but why make the decision to join this one in particular? “I went to InterCECA Basket Team because I was the first American to play for InterCECA,” he said.
Team owner Oscar Manuel Mendoza speaks highly of Burnett. He said, “Brandon performed according to our expectations. He reinforced our team in nationals and helped to gain our Local League Championship.”
Club InterCECA’s American players made an impact at their turf and are excited to recruit more American players like Burnett. “Having an American professional player in our league attracted more fans to games and improved the quality of playoffs and finals,” said Manuel Mendoza.
Burnett is back home now until June. He then plans to re-sign with Club InterCECA. During this off-season he is training and sharpening up his skill with strength and conditioning coaches Mathew Tauber and Jeff Fields from SUNY Purchase.
Burnett said that Young may join him back in Peru, creating an American tag team. Young said, “Well, that’s not official yet, but it would be fun playing with Brandon again. We know each other’s game very well, so I would expect a successful run. There are many American duos and trios in the national tournament so it’s going to be a challenge.”