Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Olympus basketball: Jackson Coleman profile

In late May, I interviewed Olympus basketball player Jackson Coleman. He was injured midway through the season, but it was remarkable how he adjusted to it and help his team. This is the article that will appear in the Olympus 2011-12 boys basketball yearbook.


He turned a midseason ankle injury
into a new means to help the team

By Bruce Smith

            Jackson Coleman and his father had a lot to talk about the 2011-12 Olympus High School basketball season.
            “My dad played football and broke his foot his junior year (in high school),” Coleman said. “Then he came back his senior year and ended up winning state (championship), so we talked about how important it was to come back from an injury.”
            And how to recuperate during it – both physically and mentally.
            The highlight of Coleman’s senior year wasn’t a highlight – more like the opposite. The 6-foot-5 senior forward was only used to having success on the basketball court when he landed on teammate Coulson Hardy’s foot in practice and fractured his left ankle.
            But instead of moping about it, he adjusted quickly.
            “It taught me a bunch of big-time life lessons,” he said. “Like how to be a teammate.”
            Coleman started the school year playing for the Olympus golf team. He carded an 82 at the state tournament and was one of the team’s top finishers. He was expecting even more in basketball.
            Coleman averaged almost 10 points a game before the injury, and was one of the team’s deadliest outside shooters. He scored 12, 15 and 16 points in a three-game span against Woods Cross, Alta and Highland – a time when the rest of the Titans’ offense wasn’t doing much more combined.
            However, after an 11-point effort in Oly’s 83-53 victory over Hillcrest, he wasn’t seen on the court again for a month.
            “I felt it pop,” he recalled. “I had that uneasy feeling. The guys came and helped me up. I tried to walk it off, but it felt way unstable. It swelled up a ton. The next morning there was a lot of bruising. I knew I was going to be out for a while. I went to St. Marks (Hospital). They x-rayed it and they found a little crack in the bone.”
            The doctors told him it would take 4-6 weeks to heal. Turns out they were about right. The healing in his head, however, occurred far more quickly.
            “Stats wise, this season wasn’t what I hoped for, but that didn’t matter,” he said. “It couldn’t have gone any better building me character-wise. I learned to play a much different role.”
            Coleman was on crutches, and then wore a walking boot. He went to almost every practice, and every game. He sat behind the team bench and tried to encourage his teammates. He was proud of how they adjusted, particularly guys like Will Cannon, Nick Barney, Stuart Pace and Hardy.
            “All of us were really tight and they had to step up,” he said. “Stu filled the role that I had and it helped a lot, especially in the state tournament. Guys were used to having to step up.”
            By that time, Coleman had returned, but it was rough. He said he had to have his ankle taped heavily before each game and felt uncomfortable.
            He played briefly in Oly’s 54-45 win at Skyline and got additional minutes in the “Senior Night” win over Murray, where the Titans won the Region 7 title.
            “Coach Barnes kept talking to me and he said he would try to work me into the starting lineup, but it worked out better with me coming off the bench,” he said.
            Coleman’s play picked up in the 4A state tournament, but he saved his best effort for the state championship game.
            “That was my best game,” he said. “It was the first time I felt 100 percent after my ankle injury. I was able to play and didn’t have to worry about any pain.
            “I’ll always remember that game,” he added. “All the alumni, and we had so much support, especially our students. I remember looking around and seeing so much support. It was wild.”
            Coleman scored 11 points and tied his career high with eight rebounds in Oly’s 58-50 loss. He said the atmosphere, the fans and the healthy feeling he had was almost intoxicating, despite the loss.
            “We all felt like we accomplished a lot. We would have liked to win it all, but it was still a great ride.”
            The ankle problem didn’t ruin Coleman’s golf game, and he planned to try to continue his basketball career at Multnomah University in Portland, Ore., where his brother, Seth, attends.
            “I’m going to try college golf, and maybe basketball,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Olympus basketball: Stuart Pace profile

In mid-May, I interviewed Olympus guard Stuart Pace, who had an interesting season for the Titans. It was to his credit how he applied his skills to help the team. Oly preaches the team concept and Pace is a great example of why the Titans' approach to the game is a good one. Here is the article that will appear in this year's Olympus boys basketball yearbook.


He had a lot to live up to, and provided
the support that elevated the Titans

By Bruce Smith

             For Stuart Pace, playing basketball team this was a tale of two seasons.
            He survived and, looking back, said he became a better player due to it.
            The 6-foot-2 senior guard had a lot to live up to as Olympus prepared for its 2011-12 schedule. Longtime coach Matt Barnes knew of the talent that came from within the Pace family. There were two brothers who played for Barnes in late 1990s and Pace’s sister, Michelle, was a first team all-state pick a few years ago.
            Stuart was the fourth – and final – member of the Pace basketball clan..
            “I’ve been around Olympus basketball since I started walking,” Pace said. “I had always known that I wanted to play for Barnes. I had been going to Olympus (basketball) camps since the second or third grade.”
            After being a key member on the Olympus junior varsity team last year, Stuart opened this season following in his sibling’s footsteps. He said the best part of his game was his defense, and was often asked to guard the opponent’s top player.
            “I had played with the team during the summer and they knew what I could do,” he said. “I knew I would play but I didn’t think I’d have such an important role as I ended up having.”
            Pace and Connor Haller were in the starting lineup on opening night. However, after three losses in the Titans’ first four games, Barnes brought them both into his office and asked them to play a different role.
            “Coach Barnes made the change because we were not getting off to a good start in games,” Pace said. “We still played and we weren’t too bumbed about it.
            “Coming off the bench was a little difficult at first, but I just figured it was the same game and I’d be fine. Once I stopped worrying about not starting, I didn’t feel bad. I still got to play a ton and we were winning games, which was most important.”
            Pace ended up averaging 3.7 points per game and 2.1 rebounds. He had a high game of 11 points in the 4A state tournament against Provo, and an impressive 10-assist night vs. Taylorsville.
            The only downfall, of course, was not being able to jump into the crowd when the starters were introduced. Pace accepted his role, but when Jackson Coleman injured his ankle a short while later, he moved back in as a starter and his play improved.
            “My best game was either East or Provo in the state tournament,” he recalled. “Those were my higher scoring games, but I was never much of a scorer. I guarded Parker Van Dyke for most of the East game. That was pretty tough because he was just ridiculously good. We made a big comeback in that game and I helped a lot with that.”
            Pace said there were many good memories during the year. He felt Oly’s 57-51 overtime win at Murray “was awesome” because the Titans trailed by as many as nine points in the final minutes but still managed to force overtime.
            “Barnes got a technical and I figured we were done,” Pace said. “But Will (Cannon) and (Nick) Barney kept playing hard and made some plays. Everyone then started playing hard. Before you know it, it was in overtime. By that point, we knew we could win it and then we dominated overtime.”
            Beating Skyline was also important, even though Pace played only a small role. He said another of his favorite memories came when the Titans beat Murray again to wrap up the Region 7 title. Besides cutting down the nets and posing for pictures, there was also another – less known – celebration.
            “We partied afterward,” he said. “We had a bunch of sparkling apple cider. We were all in our underwear and spraying apple cider on each other. It was a blast.”
            The excitement didn’t stop until the final buzzer of the state championship game. Pace may not have had the statistics of his siblings, but he certainly appreciated the success. He said he would never forget the experience as his life continued. Almost immediately after graduation, he was scheduled to leave on an LDS Church mission to Kiev, Ukraine.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Olympus basketball: Jake Bengtzen profile

In mid May, I interviewed Olympus guard Jake Bengtzen, who played guard for the Titans' basketball team. He told me about how the season progressed for him and I found it interesting that, if not for a few small decisions, this year could have resulted in something totally different. Here's the article that will appear in the Olympus 2011-12 basketball yearbook.

Jake Bengtzen:

Small decisions made a big difference
in his season - and for the team, too

By Bruce Smith
            Jake Bengtzen came in hobbling to the first day of basketball practice.
            He left a free man. In between, he said, was basketball season. It released him.
            “It was awesome,” said Bengtzen, a 6-foot senior guard. “At the (postseason) banquet, that was the last hurrah about what we had done. We accomplished a lot. If we don’t realize it, we need to step back.”
            The Titans, of course, finished with an 18-7 record, won the Region 7 title and advanced all the way to the 4A state title game. Bengtzen averaged 5.2 points per game led the team in assists. His best game was a 15-point effort at Westlake when he nailed three treys to start the game.
            Still, it was his consistency that was most appreciated.
            At the start of the year, few expected all of that to happen, and it probably wouldn’t have if a few key events hadn’t occurred.
            Bengtzen came into the year with an ankle injury that he had suffered the previous spring when Olympus competed at  a basketball tournament in Santa Cruz, Calif. A few weeks later, he aggravated it. Doctors gave him a choice – surgery or no surgery?
            “I tore two ligaments completely,” Bengtzen said. “I didn’t know if I was going to play. I chose no surgery, but I had to rehab it a lot. I was in a little bit of pain all season, but it was worth it.”
            The second event occurred after the fourth game of the year. Oly had just come off a 41-38 loss at Highland and had a 1-3 record at the time. Bengtzen had spent much of it on the bench.
            Early the next morning, Bengtzen was in the gym. At such a frustrating time, he felt it was the only place he should be.
            “We all had Barnes’ basketball class first period, and he had told us to just sleep in,” Bengtzen recalled. “I couldn’t do that.”
            It turned out Barnes couldn’t sleep either. That afternoon, the coach changed the starting lineup, inserting Bengtzen and Nick Barney. Barnes knew all the Oly players were talented, but he needed something to provide a spark. The next five games were against top-level teams and, if the Titans were going to make a move, it had to be then.
            “When coach told me, it wasn’t really a personal moment, but I really remember it,” Bengtzen said. “I thought we totally turned it around in that day or two after the Highland game.”
            “We played a really tough preseason and I thought we needed some more energy,” said Barnes. “After making Jake a starter, we really started to mesh and we started to work hard to get Will (Cannon) the ball.”
            The Titans defeated 5A power Bingham and won nine of their next 10 games. Bengtzen became the team’s top three-point shooter and assist man. Perhaps more importantly, the change also got Cannon more involved. After three games where he scored 6, 6 and 2 points, Cannon took advantage of the extra attention paid to Oly’s outside shooters and went on to be the Region 7 MVP and make the all-state team.
            “The best part of my game was passing,” said Bengtzen. “I always joke with Will that if he would have made more layups, I would have had more assists. I would kid him that he would miss the layup and then get the rebound and score. I liked to bug him about that.”
            The two helped each other – and everyone else on the team. The Titans drew attention after beating the likes of Bingham, Fremont, Bountiful and Davis, and it led to one of the most memorable seasons in school history. Here are a couple of Bengtzen’s favorites:
            * - “I remember the night before we played (at) Skyline. I got sick and threw up multiple times and didn’t go to school that day. I woke up at 5 p.m. and was told I had missed the bus. Mom gave me some medicine and we ended up dominating them on their ‘Senior Night.’ That was a great time.”
            * - “In the state tournament, I remember walking out on the court in that first game and feeling like ‘wow, we are actually here.’  Being introduced in the state championship with all those fans there was cool. I don’t remember that as well as I wished I did because it was such a crazy moment.”
            When the season ended, there was lots of time for reflection. Bengtzen said his sports career was probably over and the ankle wasn’t a factor. He said he earned an academic/alumni scholarship to the University of Utah and planned to major in business and minor in communication.
            “I’m still up in the air about what I want to do.”

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Olympus basketball: Nick Barney profile

In late April, I visited Olympus High School and interviewed Nick Barney, whose progress during the season made a big difference in the Titans' resurgence that eventually led them to the 4A state title game. Here is the article that will appear in the Olympus boys basketball yearbook.

Nick Barney:

Moving him into the starting lineup
was one of the season's big successes

By Bruce Smith

                 Olympus coach Matt Barnes was in a quandary only a couple of games into the 2011-12 basketball season.
            The Titans had a 1-3 record and the upcoming five games included four 5A powers and one of the teams favored to win it all in 4A – Bountiful.
            Losing seasons aren’t the norm at Olympus. He needed something – or someone – to energize the team and chose to make an adjustment at guard. He thought Nick Barney and Jake Bengtzen could do it (having coached them earlier in the year on the golf team), so he moved them into the starting lineup.
            It was a memorable day for everyone involved.
            “One day at practice, he (Barnes) pulled me aside and said we needed to make a change,” Barney recalled. “I was playing a lot already, but I was thrilled.”
            At the time, Barney probably didn’t know the pressure the coach felt. Months later, the move turned out to be one of his Barnes’ best decisions of the year. Not only did Olympus win four of those games, the Titans kept going. Over a six-week span, they left the court unhappy just one time.
            “I didn’t start him and I wanted to see how hungry he was and how tough he was,” said Barnes, proving again that hindsight is always 20-20. “He has proven to be a team leader and someone who can hit big shots when it counts.”
            The difference was likely confidence. As the season progressed, so did its guard play.
            “I have never done anything that meant as much as what we accomplished this year,” said Barney, who played on the junior varsity team in 2010-11. “It was a great season. What I really liked is all the support I got from people.”
            Barney ended up being Oly’s third-leading scorer. Listed at 6-foot-2, he averaged 7.3 points per game and 3.8 rebounds. He scored in double figures eight times – mostly in key games.
            * - In Barney’s first game as a starter, the Titans charged out to a 14-4 lead over Bingham and were never threatened.
            * - At Bountiful, Barney was double-teamed in the corner as the Titans looked for a final shot. He somehow found Parker Rawlings open and Rawlings nailed the game-winning shot.
            * - At Skyline, he nailed three treys as the Titans had one of their best-shooting nights of the season in a 54-45 win.
            He had a career high of 17 points in the Titans’ “Senior Night” win over Murray that resulted in them winning the Region 7 title.
            Barnes said it was Barney’s play over the second half of the season that made a real difference. In fact, he was thrilled following Barney’s 15-point, 8-rebound performance in the Titans’ win over Provo in the 4A state tournament that gave them a chance to win the school’s first-ever state championship.
              “Nick has had a terrific second half the year,” Barnes said. “You talk about his offense, but he also did a great job for us on the boards. He carried the load in the first half and then continued to hit big shots for us. He hit some big threes. He did a great job tonight. He was awesome.”
            Barney called that his overall best game – and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
            Playing in the state tournament was nerve-wracking for everyone. There was a six-day break between Oly’s final regular-season contest and the tourney opener, which occurred on a Tuesday. Then there was the adjustment of bussing to the Maverik Center at different times of the day, and still having to go to school.
            “I was getting migraines,” Barney said. “I was getting too wrapped up in the tournament and it was tough to sleep. Coach tried to keep things as normal as possible, but none of us (players) could really think. Our teachers were talking about it (the tournament).
            “I hope they didn’t expect us to do homework.”
            After graduation, Barney said he planned to do homework at BYU, then go on an LDS Church mission.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Olympus basketball: Parker Rawlings profile

In late April, I interviewed Parker Rawlings. He transferred from Skyline to Olympus. I had been looking forward to this interview, particuarly after covering the Oly-Skyline basketball game earlier in the season. This was one of the highlights - for me - of all the interviews I did during the year. Oh, and here's the story that will appear in Oly's basketball yearbook.


He welcomed the change from Skyline
and made an impact in every sport

By Bruce Smith

             Parker Rawlings didn’t have any regrets about his high school athletic career.
            He was a three-sport athlete, a rangy wide receiver in football, a 6-foot-7 forward with exceptional three-point shooting skills in basketball and – in baseball – a strong-armed pitcher for the Olympus Titans.
            And almost all of it didn’t happen – at least at Olympus.
            Olympus coach Matt Barnes was happy at the outcome.
            “Will (Cannon) and Parker were our strengths,” he said. “They were a big part of our success. They put forth a tremendous effort and gave us a memory of  lifetime.”
            A few years back, Rawlings was a three-sport athlete and was excited to follow of his baseball-playing friends to Wasatch Junior High, and then on to Skyline, Oly’s primary rival and a school with an impressive sports program.
            Later, as a 6-foot-6-junior, he tried out for the varsity basketball team and, since the Eagles had nobody even close to his height, it seemed likely he would make the team.
            Coach Bernie Graziano had other ideas. Rawlings was shocked and, at semester break, moved to Olympus.
            “I’d always been going to Barnes’ camps and I lived in Olympus’s boundaries,” Rawlings said. “I called coach Barnes and he said he would give me a shot. I didn’t go to any basketball games that year. It hurt too much.”
            Rawlings spent 1½ years at Olympus – and he said he’ll always consider himself a Titan. During that time, he made a huge difference on the football, basketball and baseball teams.
           In football, he played wide receiver. He had just one catch (for 19 yards) on a Titan team that finished 9-2, won the Region 7 title, and advanced to the 4A state playoff quarterfinals.
            Basketball, however, was his most impressive impact.
            “The whole season was a highlight,” Rawlings said. “The East game when we came back was one of my favorites, and I hit a buzzer-beater against Bountiful.”
            Playing Skyline, however, was the ultimate thrill.
            In the first game, the Titans played Skyline on their home court. Rawlings had five points and – in his words – played a “terrible game” and they lost, 59-52.
            “I thought I lost it for us, but the team picked me up,” he said. “I went home and talked to my mom. She used to play basketball and she made me feel better.”
            Three weeks later was the rematch and everyone knew how important the game would be.
            Rawlings, Nick Barney, Jake Bengtzen and Coulson Hardy combined for nine three-pointers in a 54-45 victory. Rawlings had four of them and Oly made four straight treys in the third quarter while eventually building a 24-point margin.
            “The first game against Skyline prepared me for the second game,” Rawlings said. “I had never played before and the atmosphere really shell-shocked me.
            “At Skyline, there was something in the atmosphere and I never felt as good. I could jump higher and it felt like it was going to be a great day.”
            Cannon, who scored 15 points that night but was fouled hard several times, said there were two games going on – the actual game and the one within Rawlings.
            “Everyone on our team was rooting for him,” he said.
            Skyline coach Derek Bunting, who took over when Graziano went to Granger, recognized the storyline afterward. Shaking his head, he said the Titans were just “having one of those nights.”
            “They shot lights out,” he said. “Bernie never should have cut Rawlings. That decision killed us tonight. I’m sure he (Rawlings) is enjoying this.”
            That victory put Olympus and Skyline into a first-place tie and the Titans eventually won the region four days later when they beat Murray and the Eagles lost to Herriman.
            That seed put the Titans into position to win three straight state tournament games and advance to the final. The multi-talented Rawlings said that experience was one of the best parts of his high-school career.
            After graduation, Rawlings said he planned to play basketball or baseball and go on an LDS Church mission. He’ll have great stories to tell.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Olympus basketball: Will Cannon profile

In late April, I interviewed Olympus center Will Cannon, who played a major role in leading the Titans to the 4A state championship game. Here is the article that will appear in the Olympus boys basketball yearbook.


Titans’ scorer wasn’t considered a star,
but he helped brighten Oly’s season

By Bruce Smith

                At the start of the season, Will Cannon was the unconfirmed leader of the Olympus boys basketball team.
            He was the only returning starter. He had averaged 11.4 points per game and 6.8 rebounds as a junior, but he was playing with six other good friends – seniors – and wasn’t sure of his exact role.
            “I knew that most everyone on the team could score if they wanted to,” he said.
            That was true, but so could Cannon – and he had already proven it. He didn’t want to change his game to become a bigger scorer, so he had the team adapt to him. His efforts to help his teammates’ production only solidified his status.
            Cannon ended up Oly’s top scorer (16.2 ppg) and rebounder (7.7), but he also led the team in assists (3.1) and steals (2.0).
            “Will played a huge role for us,” said coach Matt Barnes. “He played 94 feet (full court). He’s in tremendous shape. He’s deceptively quick and crafty.
            “He was the heart and soul of our team,” Barnes added. “As Will goes, we go.”
            What made Cannon special is that he also made his teammates go - and the Titans went all the way to the 4A state championship game. The 6-foot-6 lefty finished his career with 667 points and 350 rebounds, but he made a lot of good friends with his team-first attitude.
            As a senior, there were a few times when he put Olympus on his back. He had a career-high 30 points against Taylorsville and had great games in important wins over Cottonwood (the opener), Hillcrest, Murray (Senior Night) and Provo (the 4A semifinal).
            His best effort, however, might have been against 5A power Davis, and that attracted attention in the local media.
            After being saddled with foul trouble most of the game, he got off the bench in the fourth quarter with the Titans down 57-46. Parker Rawlings scored on Oly’s next possession, then it was all Cannon.
            "He was phenomenal," Barnes said. "He just turned it on. He ran and played and executed. He got to the basket and made his free throws. He played with a lot of energy and toughness."
            Cannon scored the Titans’ next 11 points, capped by a layup that gave them their first lead of the night, 62-61. Then, tied at 64, Cannon made a backdoor pass to Stuart Pace, whose layup with 1:13 to play was the game-winner.
            Cannon said his favorite games were Oly’s wins over Bountiful, Skyline and Provo. While Cannon had fine statistics in those contests, what made them memorable to him were the outstanding efforts by his teammates.
            * - Against Bountiful, Rawlings made a three-pointer at the buzzer for a 60-57 win.
            * - At Skyline, Rawlings, Nick Barney, Jake Bengtzen and Coulson Hardy lifted the Titans with their deadly three-point shooting.
            * - Against Provo, Barney and Stuart Pace joined Cannon in having big games.
            “It was a lot more than just me,” Cannon said. “I felt we all played together. We stayed focused.
            “It was fun to grow as a team and to have the experiences we did,” he added. “I don’t think anyone thought we could do as well as we did.”
            The Titans rode Cannon to one of their best seasons in school history. Cannon made the all-state team and was the Region 7 MVP. Despite his impressive statistics and accolades, he earned little recognition by college scouts.
            Barnes said that’s usually the typical Olympus basketball player.
            “They stand out here because they play as a team, and that’s how we win,” he said. “It’s an attitude, and it’s got us a lot of wins since I’ve been here.”

Olympus basketball: Season recap

In late April, I interviewed Olympus boys basketball coach Matt Barnes and several players, regarding the Titans' great season and 4A state championship run. Here is the season recap article that will appear in this year's Oly basketball yearbook.

So close … after coming so far

No state title, but Titans will be remembered
for rallying together to have a great season

By Bruce Smith

            On the night of March 3, every player on the Olympus boys basketball team was downtrodden. As they sat together at teammate Nick Barney’s home, they were all thinking,
what if …?
            The Titans had just lost the 4A state championship game to Orem, missing another chance for the school’s first basketball title. But when you consider how far the team came from that first day of practice, or even the first game, it was a remarkable progress.
            “I believed we could beat anybody, and anybody could beat us,” said coach Matt Barnes. “We had to play great basketball and the kids figured it out.”
            Oly’s players rallied around senior center Will Cannon, its only returning starter. The Titans played one of the most difficult non-region schedules of any Utah school. After starting the season with a 1-3 record they came back to finish 18-7. More importantly, they won the Region 7 championship and advanced all the way to 4A title game.
            “It was a memorable year and one of our best ones,” said Barnes, noting the school’s 56-year history.
            “State was an amazing run. I’ve had a lot of talented teams, but these guys figured out our team concept and success came our way.”
            Barnes, and several players, figured the turning point occurred back on Dec. 16. Saddled with that 1-3 record, the Titans rallied to beat 5A power Bingham. That started a streak where they won nine of 10 games over still-powerful opponents.
            Cannon was the cornerstone. Although not particularly impressive getting off the bus, he sure was on the court. Cannon averaged 16.1 points per game and 7.7 rebounds. He even led the
team in assists and steals and was an all-state selection.
            “He was the heart and soul of our team,” Barnes said. “As Will goes, we go.”
            Cannon had plenty of help.
            Parker Rawlings transferred from Skyline after not making the Eagles’ varsity team as a junior. He used that as a huge motivational tool. Rawlings was Oly’s second-leading scorer (8.7 ppg), gave the Titans another three-pointer shooter and was a deciding factor in a few games, including one at Skyline, when he had the hot hand.
            Nick Barney, Jake Bengtzen, Coulson Hardy, Jaren Jones and Stuart Pace had their moments. A lot was expected from Jackson Coleman, and he produced despite an injury-plagued season.
           Of course, another factor was the Titans’ fan support. Oly students jammed the school’s antiquated gym for every home game and also traveled well. They were in their own league. Other fans, in fact, looked to Olympus to emulate.
            “Best fans around,” said Cannon. “It’s been that way for a long time.”
            When region came, the Titans were surprised 59-52 by rival Skyline. However, three weeks later they returned the favor when Rawlings led one of the best three-point shooting exhibitions seen anywhere all season.
            Olympus kept winning, too, and claimed the ninth region title in Barnes’ 15 seasons as coach. The momentum continued at state with wins over Bonneville, East and Provo before the Titans lost to an exceptionally talented Orem team.
            The Titans were predicted to fare well in region, but few expected them to perform so well at state. To come so close was a major endeavor.
            “It was fun to grow as a team and have the experiences we did,” said Cannon.
            “It was quite the season,” said Barnes, who was named 4A coach of the year and added a UHSAA award afterward. “Momentum is contagious and we had a lot to play for. Everything fell into place for us there at the end.”

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mtn. View basketball: Alex Stewart profile

In early April, I interviewed Mountain View (Idaho) basketball player Alex Stewart. This is the article that will appear in this year's Mountain View boys basketball yearbook.


He won’t forget Mavs’ title run,
and, as a senior, he tried to recreate it

By Bruce Smith

            Alex Stewart was an impact player. He wasn’t always on the court, but coach Jon Nettleton recognized that when he looked at Stewart and motioned him to go into the game something was going to happen.
            “He probably had the most impact of any player,” Nettleton said.
            Stewart knew the 2011-12 was going to be difficult because Mountain View was coming off a state championship. Even though the Mavericks didn’t win a second title, he said they accomplished a goal of at least contending for it.
            “We knew it was going to be a lot of hard work because all the other teams were gunning for us,” he said. “We enjoyed bragging about it (the title) for a while but then we had to live up to it.”
            Nettleton said Stewart was a pleasure to coach. He averaged 7.4 points per game and 3.4 rebounds as a senior. While that’s not necessarily eye-opening, it was how – and when – Stewart scored that made a difference.
            “I was one of the leading scorers,” Stewart recalled. “I shot a lot of threes. We had a lot of players who could score. Coach wanted me to be more aggressive and sometimes I got a lot of confidence. We kind of took turns who would back up Brandon (Luedtke).”
            Stewart’s role actually started his junior year. He had inconsistent amounts of playing time, but was one of the players who stepped up their game after the Mavs’ leading scorer, Tyson Percifield, was hurt just before the state tournament. In Mountain View’s semifinal game against SIC rival Borah at the Idaho Center, Stewart scored 12 points in the Mavs’ 65-51 win.
            “He came off the bench and had three threes,” said Nettleton said. “In his mind, he’ll remember that the rest of his life. Those were important shots and made a big difference for us at the time.”
            One time, Stewart nailed a shot from long range and was fouled on the play. He made the free throw, resulting in a rare four-point play.
            A year later, Stewart still couldn’t help but smile when describing that night.
            “The 6 (foot)-9 guy hit me (Brock Holubetz), but I still hit the shot,” he said.
            When the local media made its SIC predictions, Mountain View was picked third and there was no mention of Stewart, but he came alive again at key times.
            He had a season high 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the Mavs’ early season win over Capital, and followed it up with a 10-point effort against Boise. He was recognized – and even interviewed – by local radio station KIDO. His efforts helped Mountain View start the season 7-0 and the Mavs were highly ranked as they attempted to repeat last year’s title.
            “We have guys on our team that can surprise people,” Stewart said. “This year, it was usually Tanner (Percifield), but it could be anyone. When someone was ‘on,’ we let them shoot. We almost always had someone who was hot.”
            Nettleton noted there was something else that set Stewart apart from his teammates.
            “If I looked back at all the games, I’d notice that he always had a smile on his face when he was on the floor,” he said. “He was a kid who was always in a good mood. It took a lot for him to get upset.”
            Nettleton recalled one specific play, when the 6-3 Stewart went for a layup against Boise, but lost control of the ball.
            “It went straight up and through the hoop and he had to grab the rim,” Nettleton said. “He said later, ‘did you see me dunk it?’”
            Stewart said another highlight came this year against Centennial. The Patriots were guarding Percifield very closely, and that gave Stewart some additional freedom. Despite being poked in the eye, and occasionally suffering blurred vision, he scored 10 points in the Mavs’ 42-32 win.
            Stewart said he didn’t have any further plans to continue playing organized basketball. He appreciated all the great memories at Mountain View. After graduation, he said he was considering going to the University of Idaho.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mtn. View basketball: Nate Moore profile

In early April, I interviewed Nate Moore, who was a standout on the Mountain View (Idaho) football and basketball teams. Here is the article that will appear in this year's Mountain View basketball yearbook.


Mavs’ hard-nosed defender welcomed
his role as team’s defensive standout

By Bruce Smith

            Nate Moore was a quiet guy who let his play do the talking.
            Even though he was just a 5-foot-9, 165-pounder, he was one of the biggest hitters on the football team. He played cornerback on the SIC’s best defense. As soon as basketball started, he made the transition quickly and coach Jon Nettleton had him in the starting lineup.
            Moore brought a spirit to a team that would be sorely needed. Mountain View was the state’s defending champion and would need to play hard every game to have a chance to repeat.
            “The coaches told us right at the start that there would be a target on our backs,” Moore said. “We ran a lot in practices and it was pretty intense.”
            Nettleton made Moore a starter right away.
            “One of the toughest, hard-nosed type kids I’ve ever coached,” Nettleton said. “He was a great on-ball defender and always gave 100 percent.”
            Moore wasn’t counted on as a scorer. He had just 32 points all season, with a high game of four against Caldwell. His defense, however, was nothing short of special.
            That was evident in football. Moore anchored the Mavericks’ secondary. He finished with 54 tackles, an interception and 17 pass breakups in the team’s 7-3 season. He later was named to the all-SIC team.
            Moore said football was his favorite sport, and he told local radio host Riley Corcoran that his time on field was “the best of my life.” His consistent gutsy efforts earned him a scholarship to Carroll College.
            In basketball, he couldn’t tackle opponents, but his mindset proved helpful. Moore was almost always given the challenge of guarding the opponent’s point guards, including Borah’s super sophomore Isaiah Wright. It was those games where Moore mattered the most.
            “Playing defense is what I was good at,” he said. “I liked putting pressure on them and maybe forcing them into turnovers.”
            Moore said his best memory came in the A-1 District 3 championship game. The Mavs got off to a horrible start and trailed by as many as 19 points before rallying. In the final minutes, Moore forced Wright into a five-second call that eventually cut the margin to 46-40.
            “I got some more stops, but that was my favorite play of the year,” Moore said. “We couldn’t quite finish it that night, but I’ll never forget that moment.”
            Nettleton said it was Moore’s smaller accomplishments that made a big difference.
            “He was a quick, all-around athlete and he set the tone defensively,” Nettleton said. “He never let his emotions take him out of a game.”
            It would have been easy for that to have happened. Moore played on the junior varsity basketball team as a junior, but missed much of it because of an injury. In Mountain View’s home game against Timberline, he took a charge that he felt for a long time.
            He felt the pain, but shook it off. The next day, the extent of the injury grew much worse.
            “I missed six games with an abdominal strain,” he said. “It hurt pretty bad. I could barely get out of bed.”
            Not surprisingly, the Mavericks played about .500 ball during that stretch. Moore returned on “Senior Night” against Rocky Mountain, and his presence was noticeable as the Mavs advanced to the championship game of the district tournament, and then went on to state.
            “When he was hurt, you could tell. We sputtered a bit,” Nettleton said.
            “I just wanted to help us get better every game,” Moore said. “We wanted to get to the state tournament and then to win it.”
            At state, Moore answered the call of guarding the opponent’s top players again, including Wright. At state, he had to face Marcus Slocum of Post Falls, who eventually won the state’s top honor.
            In the future, Moore will again battle great players, but with shoulder pads and a helmet. Mountain View’s coaches recognized the value he brought to their teams. Carroll College will now get that same honor.

Mtn. View basketball: Brandon Luedtke profile

In early April, I interviewed Mountain View (Idaho) basketball player Brandon Luedtke. An all-state and all-SIC pick, he was the leader of this year's team. Here is the article that will appear in this year's Mountain View basketball yearbook.


He was the biggest piece of the puzzle
that led to Mavericks’ recent success

By Bruce Smith

            The player of the year in Idaho for the 2011-12 basketball season was Marcus Colbert of Post Falls. Borah’s Ben Tucakovic was tabbed the top player in the SIC.
            The local media called them “easy choices,” but the same argument could have been made for Brandon Luedtke.
            His dad called him “Bubba” when he was in elementary school, and it stuck. His nickname, however, was the only part of his game that attracted attention. Luedtke wasn’t much of a talker, letting his on-court success do that for him.
            “I just had a lot of fun playing basketball,” he said.
            Basketball was his only sport and Luedtke was the team’s fixture – on and off the court. In two seasons, he was an integral part in helping the Mavericks win 38 games.
            He helped Mountain View to the 5A state championship as a junior, and was part of the game’s biggest play at the end. Then, as a senior, nobody had a bigger role on his team. The Mavericks finished 17-9 and reached the semifinals of the state tournament.
            “Brandon was one of the few players that did everything well. He was probably the best player I coached,” said Mountain View coach Jon Nettleton. “I’ve never had a kid who led us in almost every category but he was able to put his stamp in every game.”
            If you look at the Mountain View record book, his name is everywhere, and likely won’t disappear for many years. When he graduated, he was No. 1 in rebounds (career), rebounds (season), highest field goal percentage (career) and most blocked shots in a game.
            And his status as the Mavericks’ top player never seemed to affect him. Even though opponents treated him with great respect, Luedtke said he always felt like the underdog. At 6-foot-4, he was Mountain View’s biggest player, but was almost always was facing someone bigger.
            “It seemed like it was that way every game,” he said. “I had to work just to get my shot off.”
            But there was no doubt of his work ethic. In his career, he got off 391 shots, and most went in the basket. A lefthander, Luedtke developed a post-up move where he propelled himself one or two steps to his right and then lofted a soft, arching shot at the basket.
            “Even if they knew it was coming, it was hard to stop,” he said. “I did it so quick.”
            As a junior, Luedtke was Mountain View’s second-leading scorer, averaging  9.8 points per game. He also topped the team in rebounds (8.6), steals and blocked shots.
            His senior year, he was at 11.7 ppg and 8.8 rebounds, leading the team in every category except (alas) free-throw shooting.
            Luedtke just shrugged his shoulders at his statistics.
            “He was the most low-key player I’ve ever coached,” Nettleton said. “He was able to do all that and not really show much emotion. I don’t think he ever changed at any point.”
            He came close a couple of times.
            The first was in Mountain View’s 47-44 championship game victory over Centennial at the
Idaho Center. Late in the game, the Patriots’ Aaron Maffey scored to cut the lead to one point. In the excitement, as Centennial tried to organize a full-court press, Luedtke sneaked down court. Teammate Zach Cooper saw him alone and lofted a long pass.
            With every fan screaming at him, Luedtke caught it, dribbled a few times and made the layup. The play clinched the victory – and Mountain View’s first basketball state title.
            “Winning that game was my (career) highlight,” Luedtke said. “I just saw an opening and made the play. My heart was pumping as I ran down court, but there was nobody around me and I made the shot.”
            This year, Luedtke’s most-memorable game was at Timberline. He scored 26 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had 10 blocked shots in the 71-64 win. Nettleton said that was the best statistical line he had ever seen.
            “Timberline was pretty aggressive. They kept driving to the basket and I just got in front of them,” Luedtke recalled. “I didn’t change, and neither did they.”
            Luedtke’s phenomenal career attracted attention, even if his size and attitude didn’t. Late in the school year, he signed a scholarship offer from Willamette University (Salem, Ore.). Bearcats coach Kip Ioane called him “a key piece in the road back to the NWC championship.”

About Me

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I am the author of Matchup, which provides yearbooks to high school sports teams, commemorating their seasons.