Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
WEST JORDAN — Like most college basketball fans, West Jordan's Jordan Loveridge watched Sunday's NCAA Tournament selection show to see whose dance card got filled and whose bubble burst.
Shockingly, the 6-25 Utah Utes weren't invited.
Standing outside the Huntsman Center on the morning of Selection Sunday posing for photos to celebrate being named the Deseret News' 26th Mr. Basketball recipient, the future Ute reflected on what he hopes are better days ahead.
"If not win the Pac-12, be at the top of the Pac-12, and just get into the tournament and see how far we can go from there," said Loveridge.
A year ago, there were fans and college coaches alike who wondered if Loveridge was good enough to play at the D-I level. Nobody's really throwing those hypothetical questions around anymore.
The West Jordan senior recently wrapped up one of the most dominant seasons in recent memory in leading the Jaguars to a 21-3 record by averaging 22.9 points and a staggering 13.1 rebounds per contest. The coveted 5A state championship may have eluded Loveridge and the Jags, but it doesn't take away from what he accomplished during a remarkable career at West Jordan.
After appearing in just a handful of games as a freshman, he increased that production to 13.0 ppg as a sophomore and then 23.5 ppg as a junior.
This past offseason he added to his basketball arsenal by becoming more agile in the open floor, improving his shooting range and improving his rebounding, if that's possible.
"He improved over the four years more than I could've anticipated," said West Jordan coach Scott Briggs, "I always knew he was going to be good, but I didn't know he would be one of the, if not the, best players in the state."
When Loveridge committed to the Utes last August, it was a big get for first-year coach Larry Krystkowiak, but some wondered what type of impact an undersized 6-foot-6 power forward could really make. Loveridge can't save the U. program overnight by himself, but he's worked hard to prove people wrong throughout his high school career.
"Jordan's realistic about things. I don't think he has thoughts of going in and saving the program, but I do think he plans on going in and being a contributor to turn this thing around slowly," said Briggs.
Over the past two years, Loveridge was held to single-digit scoring just once, and that was late in his junior year. This season, he racked up a double-double in 18 of 24 games, including a monster 23-point, 21-rebound night against Cottonwood on Jan. 13.
Loveridge's rebounding is what separated him from his peers.
Early in his career, Loveridge said his dad told him offensive rebound putbacks were the easiest way to score. He took that philosophy to heart, and it became his bread and butter.
"You can't make every shot every game, but you can go play as hard as you can, and (that means) going to get every rebound," said Loveridge, whose wingspan is almost abnormal according to his coach.
In West Jordan's ultimate ouster from the 5A state tournament this year, Lone Peak's primary concern entering the game was keeping Loveridge off the offensive glass. It committed two guys to blocking him out, and it was a big key to Lone Peak's victory — even though Loveridge still grabbed 12 total rebounds, four of them offensive.
Since Briggs took over the West Jordan program over a decade ago, he's tried to instill pride in the history of the program. He talks a lot about former players with his current players, and one of the names that always comes up is Scott Judd from the 2001 state championship team.
Briggs calls him, "the best 6-foot-3 rebounder we ever had."
Through the years, Briggs has referred to him as a monster on the glass and encouraged his younger players to emulate Judd. When he went back recently and looked at those 2001 stats, he realized the "monster" was only pulling in eight rebounds per game. Loveridge averaged over 13 boards this year, finishing with 301 total.
Loveridge credits older players like Reyes Gallegos and Jordan Weirick — who led West Jordan to the 2009 title — for instilling the necessary work ethic at a young age. It's something he'll take with him to the University of Utah.
"I'm just so proud of Jordan. It's not just me, but our whole staff and our whole school, there's just an overall sense of pride for Jordan and West Jordan High," said Briggs.
Past Mr. Basketball winners
2011: Tyrell Corbin, West (UC Davis)
2010: Kyle Collinsworth, Provo (BYU)
2009: Tyler Haws, Lone Peak (BYU)
2008: Tyler Haws, Lone Peak (BYU)
2007: Morgan Grim, Riverton (Utah, Utah St.)
2006: Daniel Deane, Judge (Utah, Oregon St.)
2005: Jackson Emery, Lone Peak (BYU)
2004: Tai Wesley, Provo (Utah State)
2003: Josh Olsen, Alta (Utah)
2002: Brody Van Brocklin, Davis (SLCC)
2001: Jared Jensen, Fremont (BYU)
2000: Garner Meads, Brighton (BYU)
1999: Tim Henry, Mtn. View (SLCC)
1998: Tony Brown, Mtn. Crest (Utah State)
1997: Britton Johnsen, Murray (Utah)
1996: Jeff Johnsen, Murray (Utah)
1995: Jeff Johnsen, Murray (Utah)
1994: Alex Jensen, Viewmont (Utah)
1993: Ben Melmeth, Judge (Utah)
1992: JaRon Boone, Skyline (Nebraska)
1991: Justin Weidauer, Cottonwood (BYU)
1990: Kenneth Roberts, Bingham (BYU)
1989: Shawn Bradley, Emery (BYU)
1988: Matt Bowman, Timpview (UVCC)
1987: Kurt Miller, Ben Lomond (New Mexico)