Capitol Words a project of the Sunlight Foundation

  • and

Lone Peak High School Basketball Team

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch

legislator photo

Mr. President, I rise today to congratulate and express my great pride and admiration for the young men of the Lone Peak High School basketball team.

On Saturday, March 2, 2013, Lone Peak won the Utah State High School basketball championship for the fifth time in 7 years. Now that alone is a great accomplishment. However, in addition to winning another State championship, the Lone Peak Knights are ranked as the best high school team in the country by the Web site Max Preps.

This team has flown somewhat under the radar to achieve their top ranking. Indeed, not many people expected a team from Utah to dominate like they have.

But the Knights have not shied away from competition. No, they have traveled around the country for the past couple of years playing some of the best high school basketball teams in the Nation.

For example, this season they traveled to Chicago to play in the Chicago Elite Classic and defeated powerhouse Proviso East by a score of 84 to 46. Proviso East is currently 25 to 3 and undefeated in their Chicago conference.

Lone Peak then played in the City of Palms Tournament in Ft. Meyers, FL, winning their first three games before suffering their only defeat of the season at the hands of Montverde Academy, which is another nationally ranked high school team.

It needs to be said that there is a difference between Lone Peak and teams like Montverde. Lone Peak draws its students and players from within its school boundaries in Highland and Alpine, UT. Montverde is a college prep school that recruits players from all over the country to come and play basketball.

Lone Peak again travelled out of the State of Utah this season and defeated Wesleyan Christian Academy--another private school that recruits basketball players--in the feature game at the Under Armor Brandon Jennings Invitational in Brookfield, MA.

The Knights' final foray outside the State of Utah was in mid-January when they defeated Archbishop Mitty from San Jose, CA, at the Spaulding Hoopball Classic in Springfield, MA. That game was televised by ESPN and Lone Peak won by a decisive score of 81 to 46.

This top-ranked team has been led by the trio of Nick Emery, Eric Mika, and T.J. Haws. But they are more than just three players. They are a full team that has worked together for many years under head coach Quincy Lewis. Now in his 10th year as the head coach at Lone Peak, Coach Lewis has a proven track record of leading his players, not only to victories on the basketball court but also to becoming fine young men in the community.

Last week, before the Knights won the State championship, he was named the Naismith national coach of the year. I want to congratulate him on this honor.

Another thing that is different about this team is that many of these young men will give up 2 years of their lives and serve missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Nick Emery has already received his mission call and will leave for Germany shortly after high school graduation. Talon Shumway has been recruited to play college football as a receiver but will serve a mission first.

It takes a lot of faith and dedication to put such a promising career on hold for 2 years. Having served such a mission myself I know that there is no time for basketball or football when you are in the mission field.

The Lone Peak Knights have finished the season as the top high school basketball team in the United States, something that has never been done by a school from the State of Utah. It might not be done again. But I have to say that there are young people all over my home State that have been inspired by this team and will want to follow in their footsteps.

Once again, Mr. President, I want to congratulate the Lone Peak Knights on a wonderful season. It has been quite something to follow this story all season long, and I know that my admiration is shared by many throughout my State and, indeed, throughout the country.

As I mentioned, the three leaders on this team get most of the headlines, but their success has really been a team effort and they all deserve recognition. In addition to Emery, Haws, and Mica, the Lone Peak roster includes the following players: McKay Webster, Connor Toolson, Zach Frampton, Brooks Goeckeritz, Chandler Goeckeritz, Talon Shumway, Braden Miles, Dylan Hedin, Braxton Bruni, Jantzen Allphin, Marcus Acton, and Spencer Curtis.

Mr. President, the New York Times published an article by Dan Frosch last week that highlighted the achievements of these young men. I ask unanimous consent that it be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Highland, UT.--Here, among a string of quiet Mormon towns, where the spires of Latter-day Saints churches glint against the Wasatch Mountains, is the home of what many consider the nation's best high school boys' basketball team. For the past two years, the Knights of Lone Peak High School, a team of lanky, long-armed teenagers who look only slightly more imposing than a chess club, have not just been beating opponents, they have been crushing them. At 23-1, the Knights have been ranked as the best high school team in the country for more than a month by the Web site Max Preps and are working their way through the Utah state playoffs, which end Saturday. While Lone Peak has lost to in-state opponents just three times in the past three years, its success nationally is especially surprising. The Knights have won by an average of nearly 28 points this season, including tournament victories over top teams from Pennsylvania, Illinois and California. ``There was one team we played that was literally laughing when we were warming up,'' the senior center Eric Mika said with a chuckle. ``And we beat them by 50.'' Unlike many top high school teams that lure talented players from outside their immediate area, Lone Peak, which has a student body of about 2,300, pulls players from the pruned streets of Alpine and Highland--small communities tucked in the foothills about 30 miles from Salt Lake City, so named by Mormon settlers because the landscape reminded them of the Swiss Alps and Scottish Highlands. The Knights--led by Mika and guards Nick Emery and T.J. Haws--have ascended to the top of the national rankings as relative unknowns, a feat made more remarkable by the simple fact that they hail from a region not recognized for basketball prowess. ``We know we're different whenever we walk into a gym,'' said Coach Quincy Lewis, who has a 206-35 record over the past decade. ``But our guys walk in there with a chip on their shoulder. We know we have something to prove because, honestly, the other teams don't have a great deal of respect for us.'' Then Lone Peak starts playing. Its style is a fearless, careening brand of basketball, built on 3-pointers, lobs and dunks, seemingly more suited for a playground than the movie ``Hoosiers.'' ``They play like inner-city teams; how blacks consider black teams play,'' said Tyrone Slaughter, who coaches Whitney Young High School in Chicago, which is ranked seventh in the country. ``I don't know any other way to put it. ``So many times we see the predominantly white teams play a conservative style, a precise style of basketball,'' he said. ``When you see this team play, it is completely different.'' Last season, Lone Peak beat Whitney Young in a double- overtime game at the Beach Ball Classic tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C., a performance that helped burnish its reputation. Emery set the tournament's four-game scoring record with 119 points. Word of the Knights' lopsided victories spread around Chicago. Now, Slaughter said, if a team is blown out, it is said to have been Lone Peaked. The most apparent reason for the team's success is the triumvirate of Mika, Emery and Haws, players, Lewis says, who ``don't come around very often for anybody, I don't care what program you're a part of.'' The 6-foot-2 senior Emery, who averages 19 points, and the 6-4 junior Haws, who scores 17 a game, are continuing a family tradition at Lone Peak. Emery's older brother, Jackson, who graduated from the school in 2005, was named Utah's Mr. Basketball and was a co- captain at Brigham Young with Jimmer Fredette. Haws's older brother, Tyler, was also a Lone Peak standout and was 10th in the country in scoring with a 20.9 points-a- game average at B.Y.U. entering Tuesday's games. The 6-foot- 10 Mika, who averages 16 points, is in his first season at Lone Peak after transferring from a private school, but he has known Haws and Emery since they were fourth graders playing on youth teams together. ``I feel this is really a once-in-a-life team,'' said Haws, who can make 3-pointers from beyond the N.B.A. range or slash through the lane with moves that have earned him YouTube fame. Lewis has coached many of his players since grade school at clinics and camps. Every summer, he takes the team to play against Amateur Athletic Union squads around the country. Most A.A.U. teams, the equivalent of select youth soccer clubs, choose marquee players from around their region. And it is rare for a high school team to compete against what are essentially all-star rosters. ``We have had very few teams that have competed at that level in term of how they play together, shot selection and chemistry,'' said Greg Procino, the director of events and awards at the Basketball Hall of Fame, which also hosted a tournament that Lone Peak excelled at in 2011 and another in which the team performed well in January. There is, of course, something else that sets the Knights apart. A flip through the team program finds plenty of references to Mormonism, whether it is players noting that the last book they read was the Book of Mormon or affirming their life goals as serving a mission and marrying. Lone Peak players freely discuss how religion unites them. When the team is on the road and needs to practice, it will call up the local Mormon bishop and ask to use the small gym typically attached to each Mormon church. ``A couple of summers ago, we were in Boston,'' Mika said. ``Someone was like: `Oh, you guys are all Mormon. How many moms do you have? You guys all brothers?' We just laugh.'' Mika, Emery and Haws have committed to play at B.Y.U., 30 minutes away. All have also decided to go on missions. For Emery, an explosive guard and the most highly recruited of the three, that means leaving for Germany in May and probably not playing organized basketball for two years. ``A lot of factors went into it,'' he said of his decision. ``I've grown up in the Gospel. And I've wanted to serve a mission since I was a young kid. I'll have four years when I come home.'' Lewis recalled that Bill Self pulled Emery aside after he had starred at a University of Kansas basketball camp, saying, ``You're good enough to play here.'' But it is difficult to ask coaches whose careers rest on immediate success to commit to a top high school prospect who plans to take two years away from basketball. ``The way people look at this state, they say, `If we go in there and recruit kids, we know they're probably L.D.S.,' '' or Latter-day Saints, `` `kids, and they're going on a mission and that's not how our program is set up,' '' Lewis said. For now, however, Lone Peak is seeking a fifth state championship in seven years--the title game is Saturday--and a chance to brag that it ended the season as the country's top-ranked team. At a recent road game against Bingham High School, the gym roared with hundreds of fans from across the region who had come to see Lone Peak for themselves. ``Which are the three guys we were watching again?'' a woman asked her husband. An older man wondered aloud if all three were heading to