Senior forward reflects on journey to Georgia State

Georgia State Athletics Burguillos thinks the team has a shot to win the Sun Belt title.
Georgia State Athletics
Burguillos thinks the team has a shot to win the Sun Belt title.

Deninson “Denny” Burguillos is gearing up for his senior season with the Panthers as Georgia State’s basketball season officially kicks off next month.

The men’s basketball team has been making preparations since June 5, but now it’s really time to grind: Two-a-days, longer practices, and spending valuable time talking to journalists.

The fact that Denny plays for Georgia State is remarkable though. The Venezuelan athlete could have easily ended up playing soccer or his native country’s most popular sport, baseball.

But Burguillos said baseball was not for him, and that he only liked playing soccer for fun.

“I used to play baseball, but I came home mad after practice one day and told my dad it wasn’t my thing. He told me I had to play something though,” said Burguillos.

Burguillos had an idea of what he wanted to play soon enough. While watching television one Sunday night shortly after, Denny saw the Los Angeles Lakers playing on ESPN and told his father he wanted to give basketball a try.

At the time, Burguillos was 13 and was at a decent height for basketball at his age. He is now 24 and 6-foot-9, and he has not looked back since. Most of his time on the court is spent playing center, but he’s no stranger to playing power forward.

Last season Denny started six games and played in 17 before having to sit out for academic purposes.

Denny’s high school coach in Venezuela was friends with Joel Davidson, the head coach at Casper College in Wyoming at the time.

Burguillos got hooked up with Davidson, and ended up getting a full scholarship to play basketball at Casper.

Casper College is only a two-year school though, so Georgia State scouted him out while he was in Wyoming.

During Burguillos 2011-2012 season at Casper, he racked up 12 steals and 14 blocked shots, and averaged 5.6 points while shooting 46 percent from the floor.

“They were recruiting me throughout the year and following me. They ended up bringing me on a visit and I liked the school, the environment, and the city so I decided to sign here.”

When Denny first came to America three and a half years ago, he had to get used to a few small rule changes. Among them was a cardinal rule in American basketball: goaltending.

“At Casper I got in trouble for that a few times. It threw me off at first, but after playing for a little bit and working with my coach I worked it out.”

One part of Burguillos’ game that he brings everywhere, regardless of rule or level of competition is his strong left hand.

“I feel like I can do a little bit of everything,” Burguillos said. “I can play with my back to the basket or facing the basket, but people say my left-handed hook shot is good. I would definitely say my left hand is my strongest part.”

Burguillos said that the team has been working on everything, but that they’re really trying to get the chemistry down with new team member Ryan Harrow and the now eligible University of Southern California transfer Curtis Washington.

With those two valuable additions and Georgia State’s move to the Sunbelt Conference, Denny said he’s more than excited to start the season, and that he thinks the Panthers have a decent shot at winning the sunbelt conference championship.

“There are some really tough teams in there, but we have high expectations right now. We’re working on showing everybody how good we are,” Burguillos said.

Burguillos is familiar with the NBA’s Grievis Vasquez, a fellow Venezuelan and former Maryland standout. Vasquez finished his college career with 2,171 career points, second all-time on the terrapin’s scoring list.

“I usually watch his games. We play different positions, but he’s definitely someone that I look up to,” Burguillos said, “I observe his game, and the way he acts on and off the court.”

It always helps to have a positive role model that you can identify with, especially in a case like Denny’s.

“He’s that main figure for me. He’s someone that’s successful and he’s someone I try to get something out of whenever I watch him,” Burguillos said.

Denny had a cousin unsuccessfully try out for a Venezuelan basketball team. Otherwise, he is the only person in his family that plays basketball competitively. And while Burguillos plays baseball and soccer for fun, he does not follow them.

Denny’s had a goal that he’s been thinking about since leaving Venezuela, and that is making the Venezuelan national team.

The added exposure and higher level of competition in America may just be able to propel him onto Venezuela’s team.

“I’ve dreamt about playing for my national team a lot, it was one of my goals when I first came here,” Burguillos said. “I want to get better and get the best out of my game, and go on to represent my country.”