Although five players from the 21-9 team of 2011-12 returned, challenges awaited the program in the form of developing depth among the bench players, gaining cohesion between the veterans of the squad and incoming players and a daunting schedule that featured quality teams from Class 1A to 5A.
Burns and his players, however, showed they were up to the test.
The Tornadoes lost only once during the regular season — and wouldn’t lose again until the Northwest Regional Title game as they finished with an overall record of 28-2.
Along the way, the Tornadoes won Walker County and Class 1A, Area 13 titles and were an AHSAA Elite Eight team. Parrish was also ranked third in the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s final regular season poll.
Thanks to Parrish’s effort, Burns is the Daily Mountain Eagle Coach of the Year.
Through a rigorous offseason training program and an equally intense regular-season practice routine, the Tornadoes steadily improved their play while developing effective on-court communication.
Newcomers such as 6-foot-8 junior Barry Hill and senior Desmond Brown, blended well with returning team members Jermichael Harris, Tyler Sims and Reginald Harris to compose a formidable unit, while bench depth was developed with players such as Bryant Thomas, Brodrick Sanders, Marcus Harris and seventh-grader Isaac Chatman.
The result was a historic 28-win season.
The Tornadoes ranked high in several categories with their offensive and defensive performances — with their average of 22.4 steals and 18 assists per game ranking first in the state according to maxpreps.com.
Parrish also ranked second in the state in blocks per game at 6.8 and were third in rebounds at 41.9.
“When I first took over at Parrish, if someone would have told me that we would win 28 games in my second season, I would have thought they were crazy. These young men that I coach went through so much adversity to learn our system, understand how I am as a coach and understand what we wanted to accomplish as a program in our first year,o that we lost a lot of kids in the process,” Burns said.
“The main core of those guys that laid our foundation always stuck together, though. They made it easy when our new players came to help them get adjusted to our way of doing things because their such team-oriented guys. Each one of them are unselfish and choose to take on their individual roles well. Each of one them are quality students and young men as well. They’ve been a real joy to get to know and coach.”
Burns also stated that his accomplishments this season were due to perseverance, hard work and dedication of his players.
“What makes a great coach is the players. The Lord has blessed me to be in good situations with good players and I don’t know of a group of young men like we have on our team,” Burns said.
“They’ve been through a lot but they still come in every day with the same 'no-quit' attitude. When it comes to what happens on the court, that kind of attitude is what has won big games for us and it blends into what they do in the classroom and in their personal lives too. It’s the group of young men I coach that makes me successful.”