High school national champion Lone Peak players value Mormon faith, service

Published: Thursday, Jan. 30 2014 5:00 a.m. MST

"When you are the parents of a special needs child, you constantly have a prayer in your heart that your child will be surrounded by a group of people who will protect his innocence, shield him from criticism, include him and love him as much as you do," she wrote. "Our hopes and desires have been met by an amazing student body, faculty and staff, and basketball team at Lone Peak High School. We cannot adequately thank his peer group, and his dearest friends of the Lone Peak basketball program enough for accepting Tanner for who he is. He loves you like brothers and looks up to you like the heroes that you are."

Coach Lewis said Payne swept the floor before practice, managed equipment and guarded each trophy until it reached the school's trophy case, a duty that practically made him a celebrity.

"He is like everybody’s brother, one of the family,” said Lewis, who also serves as a bishop’s counselor in his congregation, the Cedar Hills 12th Ward of the Cedar Hills Stake. “He always had things ready to go. He is very loyal to Lone Peak, and it was fun to have him be part of it.”

When the 6-foot-10 Mika sat out his junior year after transferring from another school, Payne oriented him to the job of team manager. Mika came to admire his always-cheerful attitude. When he didn’t feel like practicing, Mika only had to observe Payne's diligent hustle on the job.

“He had a good influence because he put everything into perspective," said Mika, who used to play one-on-one and practice half-court shots with Payne. "He was there every day and helped us stay humble.”

The Christofferson collision

Jay and Maxine Christofferson are still impressed two years later with how members of the Lone Peak basketball team treated their son following an incident in a February 2012 game.

In the first quarter, Haws and Lehi’s Ryan Christofferson were involved in a violent collision where they hit their heads together and fell to the floor. Haws had a one-inch gash over his eye, and Christofferson was dazed and bleeding from his mouth. Medical personnel thought Christofferson may have suffered a concussion and broken some bones in his cheek, his mother said. The Christoffersons spent a long night in the emergency room at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center while Haws received stitches and returned to finish the game.

After finding out there were no broken bones and that their son would be fine, the Christoffersons were able to appreciate the genuine concern displayed by several Lone Peak players toward their opponent. Immediately after the incident, Emery and other players stayed close to Christofferson to offer support and encouragement while he remained on the court. After the game, the opposing players sent text and Facebook messages to ask about his condition.

These small acts of kindness led the Christoffersons to nominate Emery as Utah Gatorade Player of the Year.

“We were so impressed with the way the boys treated the situation," said Maxine Christofferson, who called coach Lewis to express her admiration for the Lone Peak program. "It was cool. They didn’t have to do that, but they were his friends. As parents, we appreciated that.”

Fruits of seminary

The Lone Peak Seminary is one of the largest in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The 15-teacher faculty caters to roughly 2,200 students, about 90 percent of the school’s student body.

Seminary is the cool place to be at Lone Peak.

“The culture here is that you take seminary,” said Jonathan Hall, the seminary’s principal. “That’s different from other places I’ve been.”

That includes the athletes. A handful of the teachers have benefited from having members of the basketball team in their classrooms, where they have been admired for their friendliness, humility, spiritual maturity, willingness to participate and overall positive influence on other students.

“They are not perfect, but they don’t mind coming across as goody-goody or righteous, and not in a showy way," Durrant said. "They are not ashamed of the gospel. They all come from wonderful backgrounds and families, and that’s why they are who they are.”