High school boys basketball: Deseret News MVPs were versatile stars
In baseball, the game’s best are defined as five-tool guys who excel in all phases. The same applies to basketball. To truly be great, you can’t just be one-dimensional or even two-dimensional, and nobody proved that better than this year’s five Deseret News boys basketball MVPs.
All five were among the leading scorers in their respective classifications, but they also made their mark in many other ways whether it was rebounding, defending, getting their teammates involved or simply filling a leadership need.
Not all of the Deseret News MVPs ended up winning a state championship, but they were definitely among the best players in the state.
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.
Matt Conway, Pleasant Grove
The glitzy new Adobe building in Lehi has been a shot in the arm for Utah’s economy, and as it turns out, a huge coup for Pleasant Grove’s basketball program as well.
In the year before Matt Conway’s father, Dan — a former Utah State player in the ’80s — was transferred from Arizona to Utah to work at the Adobe building, Pleasant Grove’s basketball team won four games.
In the two years since Conway arrived, the Vikings won 37 regular season games and tripled their playoff victories from the past 12 seasons.
Sometimes it’s tough to quantify exactly what a player means to a program, but in Conway’s case, it’s very, very easy.
“He’s been a real asset not just as a basketball player but as a young man who represented our program, himself and Pleasant Grove so well. I’m proud of the way he’s grown and developed,” said Pleasant Grove coach Randy McAllister.
When Conway arrived in Utah, he was a talented but young basketball player anxious to prove himself. During the past two years though, he transformed himself into a big man who can run the floor like a guard and a dominant rebounder.
He finished the season averaging 22.8 points and 8.9 rebounds, third-best in 5A in both categories this year. The Vikings rode that productivity to a share of the Region 4 title and a runner-up finish in the 5A state championship.
“We improved our style over last year and tried to be up tempo. With Riley Court and all the seniors we had this year, the getting out and going and pushing after make, pushing after miss just fed right into Matt’s strength, he’s an athletic kid who can get up and down the court,” said McAllister.
McAllister estimates that of Conway’s 22.8 points per game, roughly eight came in transition by sprinting the floor and beating defenders down court. Many more he created for himself with offensive rebounds, and he was a great free-throw shooter, too.
“At 6-foot-6, he’s not the biggest post in the state by any means, but his desire was unmatched. When he was really focused and on his game, he just refused to be boxed out,” said McAllister.
Conway, who leaves on an LDS mission in July, has offers from Dixie State, Snow College and BYU Hawaii, and he’s garnering additional collegiate interest from Utah State and Utah Valley.
Sam Merrill, Bountiful