When it came to this year's Deseret Morning News boys basketball Most Valuable Players, the bottom line was their presence on the court made their teammates better. That's the epitome of what an MVP should be.
This year's MVPs are: Hunter's Carl Swanigan in 5A, Timpview's Chris Miles in 4A, Wasatch's Josh Cottle in 3A, Parowan's Colton Ray in 2A and Manila's Zac Schofield in 1A.
5A MVP: CARL SWANIGAN, HUNTER
It's doubtful there's ever been a more outspoken player in Utah high school basketball history than Swanigan.
At 6-foot-8, 320 pounds, Swanigan proclaimed after one game this year, "They can't stop me, they can't even hope to contain me."
Well, like him or him not and many coaches didn't he was mostly right. His game-winning free throws with 4.5 seconds remaining in the 5A state championship iced Hunter's first-ever basketball title.
"Carl may be boisterous and cocky, but deep down he's one of my favorite players," Hunter coach Dave Filimoehala said. "Don't get me wrong, I get mad at him a lot, but I like him a lot. He's a real lovable guy."
Hunter's opponents didn't find him too lovable. Swanigan's trash talking on and off the court rubbed many coaches the wrong way, with several even leaving Swanigan off their all-state ballots because of his antics.
Filimoehala can relate with his peers, but he always said that's just Carl.
"It actually got to the point where I expected him to say something like that," Filimoehala said. "I think our kids fed off of that a little bit. In the end, it wasn't a negative thing, it was a positive thing for the way our kids handled it."
Swanigan finished the season averaging 17.8 points and 14.6 rebounds. He plans on attending prep school next year to open up his college opportunities, which Filimoehala says could be plentiful.
4A MVP: CHRIS MILES, TIMPVIEW
The T-Birds didn't repeat as 4A state champs, but don't blame this BYU-bound center.
He followed up last year's MVP season with an even more impressive 2003-04 campaign. He averaged 15.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.5 blocks this year while leading Timpview to the Region 6 title the toughest league in 4A.
"I think he has a chance to be special (at BYU)," Timpview coach Perry Wildeboer said. "He improves vastly every year, and I think we've just started to see some of
the things that are going to get much better. He's something to rise and shout about."
Miles' defense is what separated him from everyone else. He finished his career with close to 300 blocked shots, second only to Shawn Bradley in the high school record books.
"It's his size and his agility," Wildeboer said. "He just anticipates his opponents shots really well. It's just a rare thing to see athleticism in someone that big."
With a collection of outstanding players around him, Miles never had to shoulder the burden of scoring 20 points a game. When his team needed him, though, he was generally up for the challenge. In the T-Birds' final two region games, he scored 27 and 24 points, respectively, to help them lock up the region crown.
3A MVP: JOSH COTTLE, WASATCH
When the folks in Heber City start going through withdrawals next year when Cottle isn't bringing the ball up the floor for Wasatch, they can always take solace knowing it's just a short drive down Provo Canyon to see Cottle playing for UVSC.
"I think he's going to be very good," Wasatch coach Lonnie Magnusson said. "Obviously they're going to want him to get stronger, even though he's deceptively strong."
If Cottle's skills continue to grow at UVSC, the new Div. I program is getting a gem.
Cottle's brilliance led the Wasps to a repeat state championship this year, and for him a repeat MVP honor. He averaged 18.0 points this year, many of which came via the free-throw line for the 88 percent foul shooter. Lehi knows all about Cottle's exploits at the charity stripe.
After being held to just two points in the first half against Lehi in the state title game, Cottle scored 15 points in the second half 13 from the foul line.
"Late in the game, he was the kind of guy who wanted the ball in his hand," Magnusson said.
Cottle wasn't just a scoring point guard. He could distribute with the best of them. Class 3A first-teamers Darin Mahoney and Logan Magnusson benefited tremendously by playing alongside Cottle.
2A MVP: COLTON RAY, PAROWAN
Decades from now, the mere mention of Colton Ray's name will bring a smile to the faces of Parowan's residents. He will always be remembered for the shot.
His 22-foot, double-clutch 3-pointer at the buzzer led Parowan to a 49-48 victory over top-ranked Juan Diego in the 2A semifinals.
"Every year since his freshman year he's won a game for us at the buzzer," Parowan coach Matt Labrum said.
None though was more dramatic than his shot against Juan Diego. He finished with 20 points in that semifinal victory and then followed it up with 28 against Manti in the championship game.
"His importance to us was that he can obviously score, but he brought a team atmosphere to the table, and the kids just looked up to him," Labrum said.
Ray averaged 17.8 points, 2.7 steals and 3.3 assists this year. According to Labrum, no statistic was more important than Ray's determination.
1A MVP: ZAC SCHOFIELD, MANILA
In Manila's first game of the season back in November, Schofield scored 12 points in a 25-point loss to defending state champion Mount Vernon in the Delta Center.
"In that first game, Mount Vernon did a good job of letting us know we had a lot of work to do," Manila coach Scott Taylor said. "We realized we weren't the best team in the state."
Not yet at least.
Three months later in the 1A quarterfinals, Schofield scored 16 points to lead the Mustangs past that same Mount Vernon team in overtime. His 12 points against Milford in the semifinals led Manila to the championship, a game many wondered if he'd play in.
"After that game he had to go to the hospital with a knee injury, and we didn't think he'd play," said Taylor, who feared a ligament tear. It turned out to be just a sprain, and the doctor said if Schofield could handle the pain he could play.
"There was no question he could handle the pain," Taylor said.
With his teammates spurred on by Schofield's presence, Schofield scored 15 points as Manila beat Duchesne for the state championship.
Schofield finished the season averaging 14.9 points and 11.3 rebounds.
E-mail: [email protected]