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Lone Peak: The Making of a National Champion

By Jeremiah Jensen | Posted - Apr. 13, 2013 at 8:11 p.m.



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Lone Peak has dominated Utah high school basketball for the past decade. Head Coach Quincy Lewis has won six state championships in the past nine years and developed players like Jackson Emery, Tyler Haws and NBA draft pick Justin Hamilton just to name a few.

He has never had a group of players like he did this season and it was a team that is considered to be the best in state history. They not only won a third consecutive 5A state championship but have been named 2013 national champions by MaxPreps.com.

This national championship was a decade in the making. Current Orem high school head basketball coach watched Nick Emery and T.J. Haws play in a gym in Lehi when they were in the 2nd and 1st grade. They joined others on a team called Salt Lake Metro and began playing in tournaments around the country. The first was in Cocoa Beach, Florida where they finished 10th and beat a team from Chicago that featured Jabari Parker. Connor Toolson, Talon Shumway and Eric Mika were also a part of Salt Lake Metro.

"That's when I started meeting these guys," Emery remembers. "That's why we were so good this year is that team chemistry from growing up with each other."

Nick Emery was identified as a special talent at a young age. Quincy Lewis first met Emery at one of his basketball camps when Nick was in the third grade.

"The reason I knew Nick was he cleaned out all our trophies that year." he remembers. "He won them all."

He played against 11th graders in the 6th grade. He not only started as a freshman at Lone Peak but was the team's leading scorer.

T.J. Haws also started as a freshman. He is the son of former BYU star Marty Haws and the brother of current BYU star Tyler Haws. He has long competed against older players and held his own. He is currently ranked as the 39th best player in the country in the class of 2014 by ESPN.com.

Connor Toolson is the son of former BYU and Utah Jazz player Andy Toolson. Like his father, Connor is a gifted three-point shooter.

Talon Shumway is a gifted athlete who is as good at football as he is at basketball. He has signed to play football at BYU after serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Eric Mika preferred lacrosse over basketball. As he grew into his body basketball came easy to him. He attended The Waterford School, a private school in Sandy until he decided to transfer to Lone Peak where his family lives. The UHSAA ruled that Mika had to sit out his junior year after transferring.

"He became the greatest waterboy in the history of high school basketball," Lewis jokes.

He could practice with the team but not play. He spent that time developing his skills and quickly became a college prospect. BYU offered him a scholarship and he committed during his junior year before he played a varsity game with Lone Peak.

Lewis coached Mika to run the floor as a big man which completely changed his game.

With Mika joining a group that had already played a key role in two state titles, Lewis knew he had a team with the talent to make noise on the national level. He built a schedule that would allow his team to gain the exposure needed to compete for a national championship.

"We hadn't talked about national championship until we came back this fall in August," he remembers. "And the very first day we met I said this is our goal."

Their journey took them to places like Chicago, Florida, Milwaukee and Massachusetts. They not only beat some of the top schools in the country but dominated the competition. Many were shocked that a team from Utah could play so well.

"We certainly don't fit the bill as a national championship looking team," Lewis says. "If you looked at us in warm-ups we fail completely."

The country started to take notice of this team and their entertaining, up-tempo style of play.

"We not only wanted to win by 15 but we wanted to win by 30," Emery says.

The Knights not only received local media attention but national media attention as well. The New York Times, NBC's The Today Show and USA Today all ran stories on Lone Peak.

They finished the regular season with a 22-1 record. Their only loss was to Monteverde Academy (Fla.), a prep school that uses post-graduate players. They finished the season No. 1 in the ESPN and USA Today polls.

Lone Peak entered the state tournament ranked No. 1 in the state and in the country by MaxPreps.com. The pressure started to build just four wins away from a national championship.

"We tried to keep it away from our guys as best we could," Lewis says. "That was part of maybe embracing what the attention was. I thought our guys had fun. I think they're smiling and enjoying the game as they played. I think they really handled it well, I think its the darn coach who had the pressure."

The Knights would dominate the state tournament defeating their four opponents by an average margin of 33 points. It was their third consecutive state title and they finished their season as the No. 1 ranked team in the country. MaxPreps made it official on April 7 naming Lone Peak their 2013 National Champion.

That's a special honor and I'm always going to remember this year," Emery says. "I'm glad we could show everyone how good we were and I wouldn't have done it with any other guys than the guys we had on this team."

What started in a tournament in Florida 10 years ago ended with a national championship.

"Holy Cow it's been since 1st grade when it started way back there and now we are national champs," Haws says. "It's definitely special for us all."

Jeremiah Jensen

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