No, it isn't true that Tony Brown tried to change his last name to Johnsen so he could be considered for Utah's Mr. Basketball award this year.

Because of his game, the Mountain Crest star needn't change his name to deserve being recognized as the best boys basketball player in the state for the 1997-98 season.Breaking a Johnsen family tradition, Brown is being honored as this year's Deseret News Mr. Basketball.

"It is an honor and I like to say it's well-deserved," said Mountain Crest coach John Nielsen. "I don't think there's another player that can match him this year."

Not even a Johnsen.

Brown's selection marks the first time in four years that one of Murray High's Johnsen brothers isn't receiving the state's most prestigious individual basketball award. Jeff Johnsen earned the title twice before handing it over to his little brother, Britton, last year.

This is also the first time in a while that a non-University of Utah basketball recruit has been named Mr. Basketball. Skyline's JaRon Boone, son of Utah Jazz broadcaster Ron Boone, was the last to do so. He won the award in 1992 before playing collegiately at Nebraska.

Choosing to stay close to his Cache Valley home, Brown is verbally committed to play for Utah State. And the Aggies would be crazy not to get the talented senior to sign a national letter of intent before they can say, "Hey, let's get back to the NCAA Tournament."

For that matter, almost any school would be nuts to not want a player like the 6-foot-4 Brown.

The obvious reason is for his scoring skills and long-bomb precision. Brown nailed 74 3-pointers on 43.8 percent shooting his senior season. That vaulted his three-year total of treys to 220, crushing the state record of 162.

Brown finished the season with a 26.3 points per game scoring average, bringing his three-year total to 1,530 points. That's good for 10th place on Utah's all-time scoring list and fifth overall for three-year schools.

Not only does Brown's range go beyond the NBA's 3-point line, but he also has superb passing skills and crafty ballhandling abilities.

He averaged about six rebounds, four assists, three steals and one block a game.

Maxwell and his Braves experienced first-hand how versatile Brown can be. During the 4A semifinals, Maxwell threw about every defense he could think of in hopes of slowing down the Mustangs. But, thanks in big part to Brown, none worked.

Along with continuously breaking the Braves' press by dribbling out of jams or making the perfect pass, Brown scored 35 points with six 3-pointers to carry the Mustangs into the championship game two weeks ago.

"Not only did he score, but he rebounded, he handled the press and made proper decisions," Maxwell said.

Brown averaged 31.2 points in the playoffs, including 39 in the first round against Murray. His 127 postseason points is second most in state tournament history.

There aren't statistics to measure the leadership he's given the Mustangs over the past few years.

"The kids rallied around him on the floor," Nielsen said. "He exuded such confidence."

Some might consider the red-headed Brown a bit cocky, but Nielsen says he's pretty down-to-earth.

"His confidence comes from his ability," he said. "If you've been around him you know he's just a really quiet kid. Well, around me he's quiet. Around his friends he's much more boisterous."

Nielsen could tell he was going to be something special when Brown was playing Junior Mustang ball in the third grade.

"He's always been as good or better than anyone his age," Nielsen said.

Actually, he's always been better than most people older than him, too. As proof, Nielsen recalled an alumni game Mountain Crest had five years ago. There weren't enough alumni for one of the teams, so Brown filled in. He was only in the eighth grade and he was playing against much older men, but Brown led his team in scoring.

"He's always been a leader," Nielsen said.

It isn't just on the court that Brown has shown a deep commitment to succeeding in hoops. For example, just two days after his team lost to Provo in the 4A championship game, Brown was back in the weight room working on his strength and speed.

"I think the dedication he's had toward basketball is very impressive," Nielsen said. "He gave up baseball and soccer so he could concentrate on basketball, and I think it's panned out for him."

*****

Additional Information

Honor roll

Deseret News Mr. Basketball award winners:

1998 - Tony Brown, Mtn. Crest

1997 - Britton Johnsen, Murray

1996 - Jeff Johnsen, Murray

1995 - Jeff Johnsen, Murray

1994 - Alex Jensen, Viewmont

1993 - Ben Melmeth, Judge

1992 - JaRon Boone, Skyline

1991 - Justin Weidauer, C-wood

1990 - Ken Roberts, Bingham

1989 - Shawn Bradley, Emery

1988 - Matt Bowman, Timpview

1987 - Kurt Miller, Ben Lomond