High school basketball: Lone Peak among the favorites as new season tips off

Published: Monday, Nov. 25 2013 7:10 p.m. MST

Lone Peak's T.J. Haws yells as he breaks through Brighton defenders during the high school basketball game between Brighton and Lone Peak in Highland , Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012.

Ben Brewer, Deseret News

The dust has barely settled from another exciting finish to another high school football season, and it’s already time for high school athletes across the state to shift gears to the hardwood.

Over the next three months, 129 boys basketball teams across the state will play nearly 1,600 games, and the madness begins this Tuesday with 32 pre-Thanksgiving games for Utah schools.

It could be the year of repeat state champions as three of last year’s five title-winners have been voted by the coaches as preseason No. 1s in their respective classifications in overwhelming fashion.

Here’s a class-by-class look at the teams to beat during the 2013-14 season:

Class 5A

A drop-off is inevitable for Lone Peak after the graduation of four starters, including BYU commits Eric Mika and Nick Emery. However, the cupboard is by no means bare for the Knights, who finished last season ranked No. 1 nationally by MaxPreps.

TJ Haws is back for his senior season after averaging 17.1 points and 4.6 assists as a junior, and there’s a very talented supporting cast around the BYU commit that’s been patiently waiting in the wings.

“Obviously we lost a number of good players off last year’s team, but I like the group we have coming back. We have an excellent guard line and size up front with depth,” said coach Quincy Lewis.

Three-time 5A champion Lone Peak is a combined 73-5 the past three years, including a 26-1 record a year ago when its average margin of victory was 26.3 points.

Lone Peak begins the year ranked No. 15 nationally by USA Today, and will have a chance to prove itself on several national stages again. Not only will it face quality teams in the Great Western Shootout at Orem High School on Dec. 5-7, but it also travels to Las Vegas to participate in the Tarkanian Classic starting Dec. 19.

The Knights will have some tough in-state competition to deal with as well.

Semifinalist Alta returns four starters from a year ago, while American Fork is talented and has enough size with big men Ryan Andrus and Tyler Rawson to give anyone fits.

“We have some very skilled, talented bigs and solid guards who have made improvement defensively,” said American Fork coach Doug Meacham. “Our preseason schedule is the toughest we’ve had in my 12 years as head coach, but we are excited for the challenge.”

Davis returns an excellent backcourt with Abel Porter and Jesse Wade, who averaged a combined 28.4 ppg last season, while last year’s runner-up, Brighton, figures to be tough again despite graduating all five starters.

Bingham is a program that’s tailed off the past couple of years, but there’s a new level of excitement in South Jordan with the arrival of new coach Jacob Schroeder.

“I am really excited about our upcoming season. We have a tough road ahead and I am excited to see how our boys compete,” said Schroeder.

Class 4A

Some of the elite talent in the state this season is in 4A, which should make for a very exciting season.

Among the stars are Bountiful’s Sam Merrill (Utah State), Bountiful’s Zach Seljass (BYU), Roy’s Brekkott Chapman (Utah) and Orem’s Dalton Nixon (BYU).

The combination of Merrill and Seljass, not to mention a couple of 6-foot-8 big men in Jeff Pollard and Andrew Lund, are big reasons the coaches overwhelmingly voted the Braves as the 4A team to beat this year.