State MVPs came up big when it mattered most

Published: Monday, March 12 2012 6:00 p.m. MDT

The 2011-12 boys basketball season featured a lot big-name players, and among the biggest were the five Deseret News boys basketball MVPs.

Not all led their teams to state championships, but all five were dominant players who could score with the best in the state when they needed to.

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.


Nick Emery, Lone Peak

Outside of an electrifying dunk, nothing gets basketball fans more pumped than someone burying a deep 3-pointer from Jimmer range. Nobody did it better than Emery.

The junior guard knocked down a staggering 86 3-pointers this season in leading Lone Peak to its second straight 5A state championship. He averaged 21.6 points, with 48 percent of those points coming on 3-pointers.

"You've got to say that is the strength of his game, but that's also the thing that can hurt him at times. You can't expect him to play like that all the time," said Lone Peak coach Quincy Lewis.

One of those games was a late-season loss to American Fork, but after that game the coaching staff made some subtle changes that really helped Emery become more of a complete player. They started having him defend the top scorers on other teams.

"We learned a lot of things in that game, and one of them was we need to challenge Nick a little bit more from a defensive standpoint. He responded to that challenge the rest of the year, and he's a very capable defender," said Lewis.

Emery scored less because of the adjustment, but Lone Peak was a much more cohesive unit down the stretch and was simply unbeatable in the state tournament. Emery's willingness to get in the lane and distribute a bit more in the state tournament led to tremendous performances from T.J. Haws and Talon Shumway.

In addition to finishing as the third-leading scorer in 5A, he averaged 4.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.4 steals.

His bread and butter is still the 3-pointer, and he was often at his best on the biggest stage. In the Beach Ball Classic at Myrtle Beach, S.C., during the Christmas break, Emery made 18 3-pointers during four games against quality teams from around the state.

He set a new tournament record with 119 points, surpassing both Mike Bibby and Kobe Bryant, who played in the tournament during their prep careers.


Zach Hunsaker, Orem

Nobody was more important to Orem's 24-win season, which culminated in the first state championship in school history, than its point guard.

"Everybody knows we have good boys, and certainly the talent and skill was there, but to have those boys mesh and play as a team which was obviously my hope and focus, Zach was the glue to that," said Orem coach Golden Holt.

Hunsaker was masterful at getting Orem to execute in the half-court offense, and his defense was outstanding as well. You'd expect that from a player whose dad has been a college coach most of his life.

"His IQ is off the charts when it comes to basketball. He's a 4.0 student to start with, but his basketball IQ just from all of his hard work and good coaching from his dad and others growing up, he's beyond his years right now in maturity," said Holt.

Hunsaker averaged 13.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists this year for the Tigers.

Holt likened him to a Deron Williams type of point guard in that he has a big body and he knows how to use it.

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