Senior Night — regardless of the sport — is always a time of reflection and celebration of a high school career.
When Lincoln Pius X’s boys basketball team honors its seniors at the Class A No. 9 Thunderbolts’ final regular season game Friday night against Grand Island, the emotions may be running a little deeper.
It will signify the end of an era as senior standout guard Joe Burt will be the last member of his family in the foreseeable future to be playing basketball at Pius X.
Joe’s father, Steve, and his five uncles Charlie, Dave, Jon, Tom and Mark were all Thunderbolts in the 1980s and 1990s. Tom, a former all-state guard who played college basketball in the early 1990s at Appalachian State and Nebraska Wesleyan, is Pius X’s all-time career scorer with 1,221 points.
Charlie, who is fifth on the career list at Pius X, also had a successful college career at NWU. Jon, eighth on the list, later branched out into coaching and led Omaha Skutt to back-to-back Class B titles in 2006 and 2007.
Joe, who will blaze his own college path playing at Doane beginning next season, has scored 821 points the past three seasons and will pass all of his uncles on the Pius X scoring list except for Tom.
And like the regular-season games, expect his uncles, aunts and cousins to be there in full force along with his father, mother, Tricia, older brother, Jack, and his grandparents Don and Sally Burt.
“I always hear them in the stands, but especially my brother,” Joe said of Jack, who played at Pius X, graduated in 2010 and is now a doctor. “And my uncles always have a few words of advice after every game.
“It’s really special looking up in the stands and seeing all the people who support me, not only my family but a lot of our family friends as well,” Joe added. “They’ve always come and cheered me on.”
The family has VCR tapes of his uncles playing, especially the state tournament championship games that were televised. “I’ve never seen them play, but I heard Tom was the best one,” Joe said.
Joe, a 6-foot-2 left-hander, has seen his role evolve through the years at Pius X. As a sophomore, his primary role was to score, and he averaged 15.4 points per game in earning second-team all-city honors two years ago.
The past two seasons, however, junior guard Charlie Easley has emerged as the Thunderbolts’ top scoring threat, averaging 17.4 points per game this season. And with other players emerging this season offensively like juniors Joe Dworak and Austin Jablonski and sophomore Kolbe Rada, Burt has become more a facilitator than a scorer.
He’s averaging 9.5 points per game, but also adds 3.1 assists and nearly two steals per outing. But if opponents focus their attention on stopping Easley, Burt can make them pay.
“I haven’t needed to shoot as much the last two years with Charlie and the other guys on our team who can score,” Burt said. “I know what their strengths are and I try to get the ball to them in positions where they can score.”
Burt and fellow senior Thomas Robertson have had parallel careers at Pius X, both of them in the starting lineup the past three years. The 6-4 Robertson has also turned into the consummate team player, averaging 5.5 points and four rebounds per game and doing all the little things to make the Thunderbolts successful.
“Thomas is the one of the smartest guys on the court, and he thrives under pressure,” Burt said. “He’s a guy you don’t notice on the court until he’s gone. Then you notice how the team’s quality of performance goes down when he’s not out there.”
This is Brian Spicka’s second season as head coach, but he was a Thunderbolt assistant for 15 seasons prior to that and coached Jack as well as Joe.
“Joe is a hard-nosed, competitive kid and a great leader just like his brother was,” Spicka said. “They have all the traits that made the Burts such special players around here for a long time.”
Joe Burt is not only a star basketball player, but also an accomplished tennis player who’s a former No. 1 doubles state champion for the Thunderbolts. His father is a financial adviser at UBS and is a colleague with Larry Sock, whose son, Jack, is the top-ranked American men’s tennis player and currently No. 8 in the world.
The Sock influence moved Joe to try tennis as an eighth grader.
“I never really had any lessons when I tried out (for the high school team) as a freshman, but it was fun and I liked it a lot,” said Joe, who has hit tennis balls with Jack Sock’s older brother, Eric, a teaching pro and coach in Overland Park, Kansas, but never with Jack. “It was a nice break from basketball, and it helped (my basketball) in terms of foot work and quickness.”