High school basketball: Girls MVPs more than just talented athletes

Published: Thursday, March 22 2012 5:00 p.m. MDT

Doug Reinhart

Success in a team sport requires more than just talented components.

This year's Deseret News girls basketball MVPs exhibited more than athletic ability. They pushed and motivated their teammates — physically and emotionally — and evolved both on and off the court into leaders who understood how to involve and inspire those around them.

These five MVPs earned accolades and honors for their athletic talents, but their ability to help those around them reach their potential was equally impressive.

5A MVP: Makenzi Morrison, Alta

Terry Morrison never had to lecture his daughter about the value of hard work or the benefits of practicing.

"Quite frankly, we've been really lucky," said Terry of his daughter Makenzi, this year's 5A MVP for the second straight season. "She just likes to play and has always been self-motivated. We've never had to say, 'Go shoot; go practice; you need to give it your all.' "

While there are a lot of different traits that make a player talented, just one can make her successful — determination.

"She's an amazing basketball player," said Alta coach Kristi Jensen. "But her greatest strength would be how hard she works."

It especially paid off this season as Morrison was one of the team's few returning players with significant varsity experience.

"Her role changed a ton this year," said Jensen. "She had to teach her teammates how to be aggressive; she had to take over a lot. It was a very different experience."

For the second straight year, Morrison led 5A in scoring with 22.83 points per game. She averaged 7.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 4.7 steals, and her team finished with a 17-6 record and a Region 3 title.

"She's always been an example of hard work, but she's never had to say anything," said Jensen. "And at first it was really hard for her. … She's the nicest person ever and she didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings."

Jensen said she found a way to teach without being condescending, and her teammates responded.

Morrison's work ethic likely came from being underestimated when she first started playing AAU basketball.

"She didn't play much," said her father. "All the other kids were bigger. She tried so hard, but she was kind of small and wasn't a starter. For some kids, that kind of experience might melt you down and you'll just give up, or it will make you stronger. She was bound and determined to prove that she was going to be on the floor and play."

He said that experience of having to prove herself shaped her attitude.

"You don't have to poke or prod her," he said of her work ethic. "She is so consistent. There has never been a game when she doesn't show up."

She's also a hard-working student, maintaining a 3.9 GPA. She will play for BYU next season.

4A MVP: Karlee Kartchner, Mountain Crest

Karlee Kartchner was just a role player for Mountain Crest her junior year. But with the graduation of the team's leaders and a new coach, Kartchner seized the opportunity that presented itself.

"From the beginning of team camp last summer, she's been the leading rebounder, the leading scorer and the team leader," said first-year coach Candace Thornton. "That's all I've known. This is Karlee. This is what she does."

What she did was become one of the state's most consistent top performers. She averaged a double-double with 23 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. She also averaged 1.7 blocks, 2.6 steals and 3.3 assists, and played well enough to earn a scholarship to Utah Valley University.