The 2011 boys basketball season was definitely the year of the guard.
All five of this year's Deseret News boys basketball MVPs were guards, and all five led their team to a state championship. They were all blessed with great teammates, but their leadership and ability to score separated them from their peers.
Here's a summary of this year's MVPs as picked by the Deseret News. The first-, second- and third-team selections, as well as honorable mentions, were voted on by the coaches. A voting breakdown of all five classifications can be found by clicking the PDF files on this story.
Nick Emery, Lone Peak
Nobody did it better than Nick Emery — except for maybe Jimmer.
A lethal shooter who was at his best in crunch time, Emery had a fantastic season in leading Lone Peak to its third state title in five years.
Just a sophomore, Emery's potential seems limitless at this point as he's on pace to enjoy an even better high school career than his older brother, Jackson Emery, or Tyler Haws.
"It's amazing that you have that level of player again. To have a player like Haws or Jackson, that's a once in a coaching career kind of guy. But then to have another guy like that," said Lone Peak coach Quincy Lewis.
Emery finished the year averaging 21.7 points, 3.9 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 73 total 3-pointers.
He was at his best when Lone Peak need him most. He scored 36 points in a quarterfinal win over West Jordan, knocked down two late 3-pointers in the semifinals against Fremont, and then made his free throws in the state championship against American Fork.
"He really competes. Guys who compete like he does, that's something they do day in and day out. You don't just turn it up for a game, he competes every day in practice, game in, game out," said Lewis.
Emery averaged 18.5 points as a freshman and was named a second-team all-stater. He made unbelievable strides during his MVP sophomore season.
Not only did his assist-to-turnover ratio improve from about 1-1 to 2-1, but his shooting percentage went way up. Taking almost the same amount of shots as last year, Emery averaged 3.2 more points per game this year and finished with 21 more 3-pointers.
Lewis said the step next step in Emery's growth will be the subtle things that might not be noticeable to most.
"You really evaluate it, there's plenty he can get better at," said Lewis. "What's your defensive positioning, what's your footwork defensively, where's the ball going on cross overs, is it low enough? There's a lot of little things that will make him a better player."
That's bad news for the rest of 5A, knowing it must contend with the high-school version of Jimmer as one 5A coach dubbed him.
Sam Orchard, Highland
As a sophomore, Sam Orchard rarely played except in garbage minutes.
His transformation to an MVP-caliber point guard two years later is a case study in hard work.
"He made himself into a great basketball player," said Highland coach Keith West. "He was driven to be the best he could be. There's no way you can win a state championship without somebody who's going to be that kind of a leader and that kind of a player, and that was Sam."
Led by Orchard's will-to win, Highland capped a fantastic season with a 4A state championship. Orchard led the way averaging 16.1 points, and he was a fantastic defender on the best defensive team in 4A.
"He's a total team guy. He didn't seem worried about his own stats, he just wanted to make sure the team won," said West.
Orchard's older brother, Jake, won a state title and an MVP award back in 2005 for Highland, and now the younger sibling has something to brag about as well.
His leadership and getting his teammates on the same page was a huge part of Highland's success.
"The other kids had so much confidence in Sam. He's a really good leader that way. He would push them in practice, but was never negative with them," said West. "He was always a positive with the other players, and a real likable kid. The other kids respected Sam."
Orchard never shied away from taking the big shot for Highland, and his memorable 18-for-18 shooting performance from the free throw line in a region win over Bountiful speaks volumes about his toughness.
Orchard hasn't decided where he'll play at the next level. Whether he pursues a career at a lower division school or tries to walk on at a Division 1 school, West said he wouldn't bet against him.
"He's a worker, and he'll find a way to get on the court," said West.
Mike Brown, Wasatch
A lot was asked of Brown this year, and the senior never disappointed.
Coming off a year in which he was a key cog in Wasatch's 24-1 state championship season, the potential burden of trying to win another title never got the better of him.
Dominating on both sides of the ball, Brown led Wasatch to a 23-2 season and another state title.
"You're talking about a guy who carried a lot of weight on his shoulders throughout the whole year as far as everybody's out to get us," said Wasatch coach Norm Hayter. "He did a great job with the pressure that anyone would have in that kind of situation where you have to step up every night and lead the team."
It was never a problem for the Weber State-bound star. He finished the year as 3A's second leading scorer at 19.6 points per game, and proved himself to be a very versatile scorer.
"He's a tough person to defend for anybody. A lot of guys are limited to what they can do. Maybe they're a really good shooter, or maybe they're really good at driving, where he has the complete game," said Hayter. "He's able to shoot the 3 if you leave him open, he's able to drive and make the lay-ins, and then he's also able to drive in and pull up and shoot the little 15 footer as well."
Brown's offensive success is even more impressive when you consider his coaches regularly had him guard the other teams' best player.
Amid all of his success, Hayter said Brown's remained humble and tried to be a good team leader, especially for the younger players.
Race Parsons, South Sevier
Nobody dominated a classification quite like this sophomore.
Keeping up with a long-running family tradition, Parsons led South Sevier to the 2A state title by averaging 21.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists.
"Last year as a freshman we could see the type of player he could be, but he was kind of a role player on a very good team," said South Sevier coach Scott Hunt. "This year he had to step up and kind of be the man."
South Sevier lost one game with Parsons running the show, finishing with a 24-1 record.
Realistically, he was born to succeed.
His grandpa and father both won state championships as players and coaches, and his sister won a state championship too. His sister is currently playing at Southern Utah, the same school his father Rhett played at. His Grandpa played at BYU.
"It's in his blood. He's been groomed for this position for a long time," said Hunt.
Parsons, who also maintains a 4.0 GPA, has already had talks with Utah State about playing there after high school.
At 6-foot-3 and very athletic, his game should transfer well to the next level.
"His game was taking people off the dribble, getting to the foul line. Offensively for a sophomore, he has a well-rounded game," said Hunt.
Jarryn Skeete, Wasatch Academy
On a team loaded with talent from around the world, Skeete's consistency all season can't be overstated as Wasatch Academy won its first basketball state championship in 136 years.
"There's nothing better as a coach to know that you have a guy on your team that can consistently give you the same thing every night," said first-year Wasatch Academy coach Geno Morgan. "If he has a bad night, it's just cause he had a bad night. He didn't have very many of those for us. When other guys were struggling, he got us through."
A native of Toronto, Ontario, Skeete averaged 18.0 points this season to lead the Tigers from his shooting guard position.
Even though he's just a junior, Skeete has already used up his high school eligibility with the Utah High School Activities Association.
As good as he was defensively, his coach said he was better offensively.Comment on this story
"He's a tough kid, he's actually capable of scoring in any phase of the game, whether it's the 3, the pull up, to the basket; he does a little bit of everything offensively well," said Morgan.
Like all of his teammates, Morgan said Skeete took great pride in leading Wasatch Academy to that elusive title.
"It's amazing you read some of the articles about how our kids don't understand what it means. They do understand, they understand exactly what that means," said Morgan.