Hickman senior Bret Burchard is one of the few high school basketball players who can claim to have college experience.
Burchard, the son of Bob Burchard, Columbia College men’s coach, has attended his father’s practices for longer than he can remember, first learning the game’s basics and later picking up on the intricacies.
“When I was real young, it was just shooting around on the side,” Burchard said.“As I got older, started understanding the game, I’d watch and pay attention a little closer to what he was teaching and learn a lot from that, just what he was teaching his guys, and try to apply it to my game.”
All that time at his dad’s practice is paying off. When the Kewpies start their season Saturday night at home against Hannibal, Burchard will begin his second full varsity season. He is one of two players on this season’s roster who saw significant time on Hickman’s Class 5, District 10 championship team last year; senior Mikel Fields is the other.
Burchard and Fields are expected to be leaders, which is some indication of how far they have come. Looking back, it seems ironic that not long ago being the two new kids on the team was what helped them garner a friendship.
“We both came up freshman year (for) the last six games here at Hickman for the JV team,” Burchard said. “We were the only two from (Jefferson Junior High) that came up.”
You probably couldn’t tell from watching him play, but Fields is a relative newcomer to basketball. It wasn’t until he began growing into his 6-foot-5 frame that he became interested in the game. Fields started playing in seventh grade and then didn’t play his eighth grade season before picking it up for good in ninth grade.
By his junior year, he had become a starter on a team that seemed to have all the makings of a state champion.
With a talented group of seniors that included Lance Harris, Jamaal Foster, Kurt Vaughan, Andrew Gessling and Peter Curby, Hickman entered its sectional game against Troy Buchanan with 16 straight wins and fresh off its third district title in four years. The Kewpies never recovered from a slow first half and lost 70-56, finishing 22-5 and short of a state title.
Fields was second on the team in scoring at 8.8 points per game while shooting 65.7 percent. He was third with 4.5 rebounds per game. Burchard, a 6-3 point guard, averaged 3.2 points and 2.8 assists.
“You don’t really notice it at the time like, what’s happening,” Fields said. “After it ends, you realize how far you got and how hard you got to work to get there.”
Getting back won’t be easy. Although Burchard and Fields played all 27 games last year, Hickman’s other starters this season, juniors Michael Washington and Stuart Denson and senior Taylor Trogdon, played 25 combined varsity games in 2002-03.
Even with such an inexperienced cast, neither Fields nor Burchard expects 2003-04 to be a rebuilding season. “This year we don’t have just one person as the scorer all the time, so I think we’re going to have a better all-around team,” he said. “We should have two or three guys in double digits instead of just one.”
Fields, a forward-center, is Hickman’s tallest player expected to contribute. The Kewpies are so small that Burchard will move to power forward.
“My whole game has changed this year,” he said. “The four man has got such a more active role in the whole game. I’m rebounding more, setting more screens. I’m just getting more movement. As a point guard, I just dribbled down and passed and let it go.”
Given that they won’t be as big, it seems unlikely that the Kewpies will outrebound opponents by last year’s margin of 8.6. There is one advantage to being small: Hickman is going to be fast.
“We’ve got a good shooting team, and we’re quick so we can get out and get a lot of points off fast breaks,” Fields said.
Although neither Burchard nor Fields is looking past this season, they have started to think about life after high school. Both would like to play college basketball next year, although Burchard doesn’t plan to team up with his father at Columbia College.
“It’s not likely,” he said. “It’s a mutual feeling that it’d be just too weird.”