Jaxon has really bought in wholeheartedly to the whole team concept of doing whatever is needed. —Ridgeline coach Graydon Buchmiller
MILLVILLE — When Jaxon Brenchley steps onto a basketball court anything is possible.
He’s the ultimate “five-tool” talent, capable of contributing in any way necessary to win games. And winning was the only thing that mattered his senior season.
With a scholarship offer from the University of Utah already in his back pocket, Brenchley’s primary focus this past season was putting the first state championship banner in the rafters at first-year school Ridgeline.
That’s precisely what he did, and Brenchley did it his way — playing the ultimate brand of team basketball and in the process has been named the 31st Deseret News Mr. Basketball recipient.
“How I always like to play is make the right play to win,” said Brenchley.
One 3A coach described his playing style as “unselfish to a fault,” but it was exactly what Ridgeline needed this season, and Brenchley was totally content to play that way.
“Jaxon has really bought in wholeheartedly to the whole team concept of doing whatever is needed,” said Ridgeline coach Graydon Buchmiller.
The 6-foot-5 point guard finished in the top 10 in the state in scoring (19.8), assists (5.8) and steals (2.8) this season, and ranked 20th in rebounds at 7.7 per game.
Brenchley follows in the footsteps of last year’s Mr. Basketball winner, Frank Jackson, and in fact, his head-to-head matchup with Jackson in the playoffs last year helped spur Brenchley onto a dominant senior season.
Brenchley played varsity basketball at Mountain Crest his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons before transferring to Ridgeline this year. Mountain Crest lost in the first round to Lone Peak last season 79-66, but in that game Brenchley dueled Jackson evenly, scoring 23 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out six assists.
“I thought I played toe-to-toe with him, and now he’s at Duke,” said Brenchley.
Realizing how close he was to securing a scholarship of his own, Brenchley spent the offseason grinding away and trying to get better. The improvements were subtle as he finished his junior season ranking in the top 10 in 5A in scoring (18.8), rebounds (8.4), assists (5.0) and steals (2.0).
“I’ve seen kids that have been really good younger, but plateau off. The amount of improvement that Jaxon comes into the beginning of every season really shows his commitment to working hard and getting better,” said Buchmiller.
One of the knocks on Brenchley early in his career was he couldn’t shoot from outside and didn’t have a pull-up game — he was strictly a penetrator. He made only three 3-pointers his freshman year despite averaging 12.9 ppg, and then improved only slightly with 13 treys his sophomore year while averaging 17.5 ppg.
In his junior and senior seasons, however, Brenchley made a major jump in production from behind the arc. Despite his scoring average bumping up just two points, he nearly tripled his makes from 3-point range, hitting 35 and 33 respectively.
“Over the last couple years he’s made people believe he can shoot outside and you have to respect that. And that doesn’t just happen because you want it to, it’s hours and hours in the gym. He’s really passionate about basketball and rightfully so,” said Buchmiller.
Brenchley finished with one triple-double this year in a preseason game against Weber and was one assist shy of a triple-double twice more.
One of those near-misses came in Ridgeline’s 89-63 shellacking of Juan Diego in the 3A championship game at Utah State, as Brenchley finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
That showcase performance came on the heels of a semifinal performance in which he scored only seven points to go along with his eight rebounds and six assists. That stark contrast on back-to-back nights is a snapshot of how Brenchley can impact a game.
In the semifinals against Desert Hills, teammate Theron Wallentine had the hot hand, scoring a career-high 33 points, and Brenchley was content to simply facilitate. The seven points he scored was his fewest since early in his sophomore season.
The championship the following day unfolded completely opposite.
“There’s been multiple times where I’ve pulled Jaxon aside and said if they guard you this certain way, you just need to show you’re the best player on the floor, and don’t worry about getting other people involved. You just need to be the best player on the floor,” said Buchmiller.
That’s what happened against Juan Diego. He challenged Brenchley to be aggressive, but then also encouraged everyone to enjoy the experience of playing in a championship at nearby Utah State, calling it a “celebration.”
“I just came out aggressive from the start instead of sitting back and waiting for things to happen,” said Brenchley.
Juan Diego never had an answer for Brenchley, who asserted himself as the best player on the floor.
Brenchley is planning on serving a two-year LDS Church mission in Taiwan before enrolling at the University of Utah in time for the 2019-2020 season. He projects as either a point guard or shooting guard.
“I feel like I can do both, but my whole life I’ve been a point guard so I’m more used to that, but I’ll do whatever,” said Brenchley.
That attitude served him well in high school, and should at the next level too.