Westmoreland County boys basketball notebook: Tourette syndrome can’t slow Greensburg Salem leading scorer

Thursday, January 5, 2023 | 9:01 AM

At first glance, Ryan Burkart does not look like he would be Greensburg Salem’s leading scorer.

The 6-foot junior guard is not the fastest player and doesn’t jump higher than many of his opponents. His demeanor is reserved, his voice low.

But don’t let looks deceive you.

Burkart manages to score 13 points a game, firing in deep shots or somehow driving the lane and regularly getting to the free-throw line.

Something else about Burkart also stands out when he plays.

“I have a tic,” Buckart said. “I have had it since the seventh grade. It acts up more when I play basketball, when I run down the floor. It doesn’t really affect me. I don’t feel it when it happens, but I notice it when we watch film.”

Burkart has Tourette Syndrome, a condition of the nervous system that causes repeated involuntary and uncontrollable movements, twitches or sounds.

He does not take medicine for the ailment and has learned to live with it.

“He has done pretty well with it,” his grandfather, Tim Burkart, said. “It hasn’t stopped him from playing basketball.”

The most frequent twitching for Burkart is a shoulder shrugging movement and head jerk that seems to happen most when he runs down the court.

“It happens when I am (active),” he said. “Not so much when I am in school or (standing or sitting still).”

The Golden Lions have been impressed with Burkart, who has the look of an old-school “YMCA” player, as one person put it.

The team knows it can go to him for a basket.

“He has a Paul Pierce-type game,” Golden Lions’ first-year coach Cam Auld said. “He just lulls opponents to sleep and then scores at will.

“I think he is our glue in that where he goes, we seem to go.”

Burkart is a cousin of former Greensburg Central Catholic boys basketball coach Bill Burkart.

Bilinsky’s dunk

It was the talk of local social media last Thursday night.

Norwin senior Adam Bilinsky delivered a highlight dunk against Peters Township and the play went viral.

Bilinsky, known for his athleticism and leaping ability, brought the ball up the floor, dribbled toward the top of the key, crossed the foul line, and took off, soaring over a stationary defender for a two-handed jam.

Bilinsky scored 18 points in a 68-63 loss to Peters Township.

More Norwin

Ryan Edwards, another senior guard for Norwin, came up big in the clutch as Norwin clipped Canon-McMillan on the road, 46-45, in a section game.

With multiple defenders closing in on Bilinsky, the long-bodied senior dumped the ball into the corner to a wide-open Edwards, who swished in the game-winning 3-pointer with four seconds left.

Moore is better

Belle Vernon has been the benefactor of sophomore Zion Moore’s transfer.

The guard who left Ringgold is the leading scorer in Westmoreland County and one of the top point-producers in the WPIAL, averaging 28 points per game for the Leopards.

The 6-2 Moore held the team steady as it waited for the return of several football players, including starters Quinton Martin, Braden Laux and Alonzo Wade.

Moore, who has scored 21 or more points in all but one game this season, including four games of 30 or more, said his transition has been smooth.

Why? Familiarity.

“I think I fit in very good,” he said. “I’ve been playing with Quinton, Lonzo, Curty (Curtis Wade), Trevor (Kovatch) and some of those guys my whole life, so we had a little chemistry there.”

Moore, who averaged 21 points last season as a freshman, played AAU basketball and in summer leagues with the Wades, and Martin is a close friend of his.

Moore said the return of the eight football players gave the Leopards a shot in the arm. After a 1-4 start, they evened their record at 4-4.

“It took a lot of pressure off me and the team,” Moore said. “We got a lot better, and it was just very exciting to get them back and on the hardwood.”

All section

WPIAL section play will shift to a higher gear this month, as the regular Tuesday-Friday schedule takes hold.

A pair of county rivals will square off Friday night in Section 3-2A when Jeannette visits Greensburg Central Catholic. Three GCC starters are from Jeannette.

GCC won both games last year, by scores of 63-43 and 75-36.

Jeannette is allowing a section-low 46 points per game.

Other section games to watch Friday include Hempfield at Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair at Norwin (2-6A); Kiski Area at Franklin Regional, McKeesport at Latrobe and Penn-Trafford at Gateway (3-5A); Southmoreland at Elizabeth Forward and Uniontown at Belle Vernon (3-4A); and Mt. Pleasant at Brownsville and Washington at Yough (4-3A).

Double trouble

Monessen had a pair of double-doubles in Tuesday’s 63-44 win over Geibel. Lorenzo Gardner put up 24 points and 19 rebounds, and Jaisean Blackman went for 12 points and 14 rebounds in the victory.

Layup lines

Former Greensburg Central Catholic forward Collin Bisignani is an assistant coach this season under Bill Swan at Hempfield. Bisignani is the son of former GCC boys coach Greg Bisignani, who had Swan on his staff for three years. … Hempfield and Greensburg Salem are not section opponents but played each other twice this season, in the Hempfield Tip-Off Tournament and at the Paul Sapotichne Holiday Classic at Greensburg Salem. Jeannette and Greensburg Salem also will play twice — at the WCCA Showcase and later at the Shootout at Seton Hill. … Aquinas Academy’s Vinnie Cugini began the new year 368 points behind Valley’s Tom Pipkins for the WPIAL’s all-time boys basketball scoring mark. At the start of the week, Cugini, a Pitt-Johnstown commit, was fifth on the WPIAL list with 2,470 points.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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