Doug Robinson: High-flying Knights shatter hoops stereotypes while doing things 'the right way'
The Knights are nothing if not a product of their culture — which is to say Utah and Mormon — which close observers say contributes to the chemistry of the team. A quick glance at the team's media guide is revealing: Most of the players list plans for church missions, marriage, family and to be remembered as "a good kid, friendly," or "happy, nice to everyone."
Three of the team's five seniors — Emery, Shumway and Braden Miles — have already received calls to serve missions for the LDS Church and will leave this summer. Most of the Knights' players list the Book of Mormon as their favorite book or the last book they read.
"Part of the reason for our success is how good the guys are off the court," says Mika. "We don't have any of those problems off the court — drugs, alcohol, immorality. It's the way we've been raised. We have those expectations."
The players hang out together off the court to play Halo like other teenagers, but they also make trips to the Mormon temple together, either early in the morning or after practice.
"We do that once in a while," says Emery, who leaves on a mission to Germany on May 1. "I mean, we have three temples within 10 miles here."
On road trips, the Knights don't use an unfamiliar town as an excuse to miss church.
"We flew into Boston for a tournament and before I could even ask, (Emery) said he had found a church they could attend at such and such a time and located at such and such a place," Lewis said. "A group of them went to church the next day."
For their part, the Knights are still trying to take it all in. They have claimed three consecutive state championships and likely a national championship while earning nationwide media attention and notoriety.
"This is a movie," Mika said. "I don't think we realize what we've gotten ourselves into. What is going on? We were on the 'Today Show'!"
Anticipating the media attention at the outset of the season, Lewis asked his players not to read their press clips or watch their TV coverage. Mika and Emery insist the players have complied. In return, Lewis assigned a parent to collect all articles, TV shows and video highlights about the team to present to the players when all is said and done.
"Then they can read it and enjoy it to their heart's content after the season," says Lewis.
It should prove to be enjoyable reading for the rest of their lives.