When it came to making big plays and making teammates around them better all season, nobody did it better than this year’s five Deseret News boys basketball MVPs.
All five MVPs were among the leading scorers in their respective classifications, and all five were instrumental in leading their teams to state championships.
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.
T.J. Haws, Lone Peak
The only underclassman on Lone Peak’s No. 1 basketball team, this junior BYU commit is without a doubt the flashiest of them all.
Haws made such an impression with his trickery at the City of Palms Classic in Florida last December, someone created a YouTube video dedicated to Haws’ impressive theatrics.
“He is a crafty, crafty guy. You would see his moves in the 40-year-old league in rec ball,” joked Lone Peak coach Quincy Lewis.
At the end of the day though, few players were as efficient as Haws. He averaged 17.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.9 steals in leading the Knights to their third-straight 5A state championship.
“He is pretty smart on the floor in how he gets his shots and how he gets to places on the floor,” said Lewis. “He’s got a really good feel. He has an understanding of when a guy is a little off balance, and when is the time to pull up and when is the time to go all the way to the basket.”
He has tremendous range, which he demonstrated by knocking down 64 3-pointers this season, and he’s a great finisher at the basket, which he demonstrated with a flashy reverse lay-up under the arms of Alta’s Landon Albrecht in the 5A championship game.
On a team with four seniors, Haws had the luxury of sitting back and letting his teammates lead the way. Next year he’ll be the focal point for Lone Peak, and Lewis said Haws has the work ethic to be successful nonetheless. He learned that from his older brother Tyler Haws, a two-time Mr. Basketball winner.
Tyler Haws was the hardest-working player Lewis ever coached, and he passed that work ethic down to his little brother.
“One of the greatest things Tyler gave him is how hard you have to work,” said Lewis.
Jalen Moore, Sky View
Heading into this year’s 4A state tournament, most people figured Sky View would be a one-and-done team. Oops.
Led by Utah State commit Jalen Moore, who raised his game both offensively and defensively in the playoffs, Sky View stunned everybody to claim the unlikely 4A state championship.
Whether it was leading Sky View’s press, raining down half-courters featured on ESPN or dominating the glass, Moore did whatever it took to lead his team — big hair and all.
“Say what you want about his hair, but his hair is pretty intimidating as well,” said Sky View coach Kirk Hillyard.
Moore finished third in 4A in scoring at 21.6 ppg and among the top 10 in rebounding at 7.0 per game.
His defensive intensity with Roy’s full-court press kick-started Sky View’s unlikely run to the title.
“It’s one thing to have a press, but when you have a press and you put a 6-foot-8 guy up front that’s pretty long and athletic, that’s pretty intimidating,” said Hillyard.
Sky View didn’t utilize the press until the final game of the regular season, but the press awoke the sleeping giant.
“He was more active, he was aggressive on defense, and he almost looked forward to that. It was fun to see him lead that,” said Hillyard.
As great as the two-year starter was for Sky View, he’ll forever be remembered for the shot — the half-court overtime buzzer beater in the semifinals against Bountiful.
“He let it fly and put Sky View and Utah basketball on the map. Couldn’t happen to a better kid. He’s a humble kid, and he’s just as happy for his teammates to succeed,” said Hillyard.
Jake Miles, Morgan
Last season, Morgan leading scorer Jake Miles rolled into the state tournament hoping to make a name for himself. Instead, the junior was bullied and knocked around by eventual state champion Hurricane. He scored just 11 points in that quarterfinal loss, well down from the 31 he’d scored the previous round of the playoffs.
Miles vowed to get tougher in the offseason, and the entire Morgan community is glad he did.
The physically and mentally tougher Miles did the dominating this season, finishing third in the state in scoring at 24.7 ppg and leading Morgan to its first state title in 40 years.
“Down against Hurricane, they shut him right down with the physical play and he was just trying to shoot jump shots. But this year, teams were physical with him and he went to the foul line a lot, and that was a great help to our team and made him a lot better player,” said Morgan coach Jim Wiscombe.
Miles averaged around 10 free-throw attempts per game and shot a scintillating 93 percent. Combined with a lethal jump shot — which led to 72 3-pointers — he was nearly impossible to guard.
Even in the state tournament when defenses were geared toward slowing Miles, he still scored his points. Along with leading 3A in scoring, he also averaged 3.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 3.3 steals.
Despite all of the success, Miles never became too full of himself.
“One thing that Jake did that was fantastic, at every football game Jake Miles was there cheering his heart out. At every girls basketball game, Jake Miles was right there cheering for his other schoolmates. He showed great leadership that way,” said Wiscombe.
Miles will leave for an LDS Church mission this summer, and hopes to play college basketball when he returns. Utah State has granted him walk-on status when he returns, but he may ultimately get more offers.
Cody John, Wasatch Academy
Just a sophomore, Cody John was the glue that held everything together for the Lone Peak of 2A.
Night after night, the shooting guard from Canada proved to be the most consistent player for the Tigers, who dominated this season, finishing with a 25-1 record and claiming the 2A state championship.
“At the end of the day, he’s one of those kids who has a knack for putting the ball in the basket, it’s not something you can teach. You’re either good at it or you’re not. As the returning leading scorer from last year, I put a lot of pressure on him and he accepted that,” said Wasatch Academy coach Geno Morgan.
John, who was a 2A first-teamer last year, led Wasatch Academy in scoring again this year at 15.2 ppg. He also added 2.5 rpg, 3.5 apg and 1.6 spg.
Morgan said the youngster is like a sponge and handles corrective criticism as well as any player he’s ever coached. It’s a big reason he made huge strides defensively this season.
John is a playmaker in the truest sense of the word. He can shoot the 3, he can beat defenders off the dribble and he’s good at the free-throw line.
“He’s a young guy, but skill-wise he’s a level above. He’s a special kid offensively,” said Morgan. “I need the last shot taken, he’s going to take it.”
John hopes to play college basketball in a few years, and Morgan believes he has the potential to be a mid-to-high Division I guy with two more years of growth and maturity to his game.
Braxton Syrett, Bryce Valley
Braxton Syrett was voted onto the Deseret News first team last season based largely on his defensive prowess and clutch play in the state tournament.
A year later it was all about the offense.
Syrett took on a different role for Bryce Valley his senior season and was sensational in the process, averaging 23.1 points — up 10 from last year — to lead the Mustangs to the 1A state title.
Despite the extra attention of defenders, he scored more than 20 points in all four state tournament victories.
“He really learned how to control his game. How to get his shots, when to be patient, and let the team develop its rhythm around him,” said Bryce Valley coach Eric Jessen.
Syrett was at his best against the best, scoring 43 points against Piute back in December and then 41 more against Panguitch in the region tournament.
Jessen said Syrett’s will to win was arguably his greatest asset.
“One of the greatest attributes about Braxton, he’s so competitive. If you were playing him in a game of chess and he knew he was going to lose, he would cut your arms off so you couldn’t win, that’s how competitive he is. He has that undeniable nag and will to win the game. He hates losing,” said Jessen.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company