Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
It is one thing to develop your own skills as a player.
It is quite a different talent to be able to help others reach their potential. This year's Deseret News Most Valuable Players did just that as they led their teammates to both personal and team success. All five girls are a rare combination of compassion and toughness, humility and confidence.
Makenzi Morrison, Alta
When Makenzi Morrison began playing basketball for Alta High as a freshman, she ended every practice with some words for her coach.
"She'd come up and say, 'Thank you, coach', every day," said Hawks head coach Kristi Jensen. "She's one of the nicest people you'll ever meet."
Don't mistake her manners for weakness, however. The junior guard is one of the toughest, hardest working players in the state. That was evidenced when she led the Hawks through a tough region schedule, and then to an unexpected 5A state title.
Morrison scored 13 points, grabbed seven rebounds, earned six assists and grabbed three steals in the 67-59 victory. The loss was the first this season for Syracuse.
"She has a lot of great strengths," said Jensen. "She's an amazing defender....She is also a really good leader."
Her style isn't to hoot and holler, but more to lead and by working so hard, her teammates want to join her. She led the Hawks in rebounding, despite guarding mostly point guards.
"Every part of her game was an important part of what we did," said Jensen. "She works her butt off, but she's a pretty quiet person. She doesn't yell at people; she just gets it done. And she's the kind of person people follow."
The junior committed to BYU last summer and Jensen expects she'll continue to work hard despite earning a scholarship and a state title. She is just as dedicated in the classroom maintaining a 3.9 GPA.
Her example means good things for the Hawks next season.
"She works so hard, and it makes everybody else step up to that kind of level."
Lexi Eaton, Springville
Lexi Eaton is so talented she probably could have gotten by with half the effort other players have to expend. But that's not the kind of girl she is.
"She has an amazing work ethic," said Springville head coach Nancy Warner. "She works so hard, not only during the season but year-round."
Eaton led the Red Devils to a 4A state title for the second straight year by averaging 29 points, seven rebounds, 3.2 assists and 3.4 steals. Anything the Red Devils needed, Eaton provided.
"Putting in the time has made her a better student of the game," said Warner. "That was evident in her game. She was able to create her own shot; she was able to finish, she was able to make the better pass. It showed in her maturity level."
As successful as Eaton has been, earning Ms. Basketball honors last year and all-state all four years, her accomplishment never changed who she was.
"She never let it go to her head," Warner said. "She is nice to everyone; she helps everyone."
Her desire to help her teammates improve is key in the Red Devils' ability to earn a second straight title.
"She's just a great leader and example," said Warner. "She is a humble person, and she's the first person to congratulate someone else. She trusts her teammates and that gives them confidence."
Part of what made Eaton successful was the ability to battle through disappointment.
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