PAYSON When Payson traveled to Springville for the boys basketball game last week, it might as well have been a home contest for Seth Lovell, the Lions' 6-foot-7, 195-pound center. In addition to the regular Payson fans traveling for the game, Lovell enjoyed his own frenzied contingency of fans that included his parents, older siblings, girlfriend and another friend.
All cheered loudly when Lovell knocked down a jumper, collected a rebound and sank a free throw. All booed just as boisterously when he got called for traveling or a foul.
And all sported black Payson High School T-shirts with the Lovell name and his jersey number, 30, on the back made by Seth's mother, Barbara.
Seth's family and friends had a lot to cheer for Tuesday evening as Payson defeated Springville 48-45. Lovell led the Lions with 24 points, including two critical free throws with just a few seconds remaining. Lovell also secured a defensive rebound as time expired.
It was the fourth time in the Lions' 10 games to date this season that Lovell has eclipsed 20 points. On the season, he is averaging 19 points per game, and he has been the team's leading scorer in all 10 games.
"For us to be successful, the ball has to be in his hands," said Payson head coach Dan Lunt. "He's our best offensive threat. He's been a good presence for us inside."
The Lions' victory over the Red Devils was just their third all season. But without Lovell and his low-post presence, the Lions might have had no victories at all.
"When you don't have a post presence and you try to get 3s from the outside, it's a lot more difficult," Lunt said. "Teams have to double-team down inside."
Lovell has been playing basketball his entire life. He grew up in Delta, attending elementary school there. When he was 12 years old, his family moved to Payson, where he started going to Payson Junior High.
He played basketball at Payson Junior High, Payson Middle School and all four years at Payson High School, the latter as a varsity team member since he was a sophomore.
"He's been a gifted athlete throughout his life," said his father, Norm Lovell. "He excelled in football, he excelled in baseball. I'm proud of him. He's worked hard."
When Seth Lovell hauled in the defensive rebound to ensure Payson's victory Tuesday night, he let out an enthusiastic holler before racing to the bench to celebrate with his teammates. It was just the latest example of his lifelong competitive nature.
"He's got a determination to win," his father said. "He's got drive. Ever since he was a kid, he hated to lose. If he didn't win, the whole world collapsed on him. No matter what sport it was. (Even) when he was in tee-ball, he always wanted to win."
Norm recalls when Seth was younger and more prone to mistakes.
"He always wanted to stay after practice and work until he got better," Norm said.
Along with all his skills and determination comes a friendly attitude that has endeared Seth to everybody he comes into contact with. Even people who go to rival schools. In fact, Seth's girlfriend is a senior at Spanish Fork High School. Although admitting the situation could be perceived as awkward by others, Seth defends it by saying he has a lot of friends at Spanish Fork anyway so it isn't a big deal.
"He's just a good-natured kid," said Barbara Lovell. "He's the kind of kid that's a friend to everybody. He has a big heart. I don't think he takes a lot of credit for himself."
Seth Lovell refuses to brag about himself. But go to the flip side and ask what he needs to improve on, and he just shakes his head as if he doesn't know where to start.
He recognizes not only that he has skills but also that he can get a lot better. He's the first to admit he needs to develop his mid-range jump shot and to better sense when his shot isn't there to instead find the open man on the outside. To decrease his turnovers. To be more assertive.
"I just know that no matter where you're at, you can always get better," he said. "I haven't arrived yet, and I don't think I will for a long time."
Along with being a star athlete at Payson High, Seth excels academically. He is currently taking college level classes at UVSC and has ambitions of becoming either a nurse practitioner or a doctor of orthopedics.
"He has to really want it," said his mother. "He has to really have a vision of what he wants and work hard. A lot of athletes it's hard for them to be good academically."
Seth turns 18 in March. He has no idea where he'll be playing basketball next year, or just how much longer he will be playing. He's currently looking at potential opportunities in Utah and elsewhere.
But no matter where he goes and what he decides, one thing will remain certain.
His legion of family and friends will be there to support him along the way.
"I love it," Lovell said. "There's nothing better than having your family behind you."