Here's a scary thought Jackson Emery might have been BYU's best player this year. Unfortunately for the Cougars, he was cranking out his highlight-reel dunks and 3-point bombs for Lone Peak High School.
During a year in which several players could've legitimately claimed the title of Utah's best, Emery separated himself in the eyes of the Deseret Morning News, and is the 2005 recipient of the prestigious Mr. Basketball award.
"Jackson had his sights set on winning a state championship," Lone Peak coach Quincy Lewis said. "For him, it wasn't getting a scholarship or being Mr. Basketball. For him, it was getting a state championship, and nothing else really mattered."
Ironically, the primary goal brought about the other two.
On the basketball court, there was nothing Emery couldn't do.
The BYU-bound guard finished the year among the state's scoring leaders with 20.8 ppg. He also averaged nearly four steals, four assists and nine rebounds per game.
While his tremendous dunking ability is probably what stands out in the eyes of many basketball fans, for coach Lewis it was Emery's utter loathing of losing.
In fact, during a spring tournament shortly after Lewis was hired at Lone Peak two years ago, he couldn't believe how inconsolable his sophomore superstar was after a loss to Timpview in that tournament. It was a meaningless spring game, and Emery was treating the loss like a state tournament game.
During the next two years, Emery developed a better grip on his emotions after losses, but the pain of losing never went away.
"He still hates to lose," Lewis said. "His strength is his competitive spirit."
That desire helped him play through the pain associated with a broken thumb in early January and play well enough to receive a scholarship offer from BYU following a 19-point, seven-steal performance in a loss to Timpview.
Without a 100-percent Emery, Lone Peak was mired in a three-game losing skid. As Emery gradually improved, the Knights began winning again, closing the season on a 10-game winning streak and finishing with a 21-4 record.
"What was impressive was he wouldn't let anyone else fail," Lewis said.
After scoring 22 in a first-round win over Bountiful, and then 25 against Payson in the quarterfinals, Emery somehow found a way to upgrade his game even more in the semifinals against No. 1 Olympus.
Emery buried two free throws with 25 seconds remaining to force overtime, and then scored eight of his 25 points in overtime. He punctuated that overtime with an alley-oop dunk on the first possession, a momentum builder that his coach believes won his team the game.
As if that wasn't enough, he outdid himself again in the finals. In the title game against Box Elder, Emery finished with 27 points on 7-of-11 shooting, 4-of-6 from 3-point range, 9-of-10 free throws, six assists, eight rebounds, five steals and one block. Emery also swished a 40-footer at the first-period buzzer, and then hit another tough 3-point shot right before the halftime buzzer.
"He was a real focused individual," Lewis said. "He knew what he wanted, and he knew what he needed to do to get it."
When team buses arrived back at Lone Peak following that championship game, a host of students carried Emery into the school where they had a mini celebration. Being the consummate teammate, Emery cast all the praise onto his teammates.
Everyone knew, however, that none of the celebrating would've been possible without Emery.
Lewis doesn't see any reason why Emery can't duplicate that success at the next level.
"His athleticism will allow him to play on that level," Lewis said. "I was at that level eight years as a coach, and there are very few on that level that are as competitive as Jackson."That's great news for the Cougars, because there's probably no way Emery would allow 21 losses.
Mr. BasketballLone Peak, Senior, 6-3, G
Emery averaged 20.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists in leading Lone Peak to the Class 4A state championship. He also finished with 86 steals and 40 blocks. During four state tournament games, Emery averaged 24.8 points.
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