While older brother Jeff was making history as Utah's first two-time Mr. Basketball honoree, Murray's Britton Johnsen was growing into quite a player himself.

"I'm no longer just Jeff's little brother," joked Britton, who averaged 21 points and 9.8 rebounds as a senior.The 6-foot-10 center, who will follow his older sibling to the University of Utah, is this year's Deseret News Mr. Basketball.

"Now he definitely has his own name," said Jeff, who was in Arizona helping the Utes reach the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16. "He's proven how good he is. I think he definitely deserves it."

Prior to keeping the state's top prep basketball award in the family, Johnsen became the third Utahn (joining Skyline's Danny Vranes and Shawn Bradley of Emery) ever named to the McDonald's All-American team. Over the next two weeks, he will participate in national all-star games in Colorado Springs and Detroit.

"Britton was able to do so many things with so much weight on his shoulders," said Murray coach Gordon Kener. "He did everything you'd want to see in an All-American. I couldn"t be more proud of him."

Murray went 62-10 during Johnsen's tenure with the Spartans and reached the 4A Final Four all three years. He played with twin brother Brandon and Jeff on Murray's 1996 state championship team.

"That was the best," Britton said. "I'm real happy with what I learned at Murray. I played for a good coach. It was the most fun three years of my life."

The last 12 months, however, did have its share of challenges.

Johnsen broke a bone in his right foot last summer in a pick-up game at the University of Utah that featured NBA big men Bradley and Isaac Austin. The injury healed before the high school season began -- though he played with pins in his foot.

"It didn't affect me whatsoever," said Britton, who will have them removed soon. "It was real important thta I got back with my teammates."

A bad ankle sprain in the preseason failed to sideline Johnsen for even one whole game.

"He was determined to play," said Kener. "He is that kind of individual."

Johnsen is an active participant at Murray. Whether its supporting other sports teams or making classmates laugh with his occasional comedic skits on the school's television station, last year's Junior Prom king is well-liked.

Said Kener: "There's a lot of people at Murray who would say `Britton Johnsen is my friend.' "

Kener credits Johnsen's parents for keeping basketball in its proper perspective.

"It's only a game," said Kener. "These boys (Britton, Brandon, Jeff and oldest brother Joey) come from a home that is built upon a tremendous foundation. They play basketball because they love basketball."

Infatuation is a two-way street. Especially as Utah seeks a successor to All-American Keith Van Horn.

"I think he's in that same mold," said Jeff. "They have some similarities in heigth and low-post ability."

Britton is flattered when a comparisons is made. He realizes, however,that he has a lot of hard work ahead of him.

"I wouldn't mind patterning my game after his," said Johnsen. "But I just hope to be successful in college. That's my goal."

Johnsen will receive his Mr. Basketball award Saturday, noon, at the Salt Lake City Marriott Hotel.



Honor roll

Deseret News Mr. Basketball award winners.

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, Cottonwood

1990 - Kenneth Roberts, Bingham

1989 - Shawn Bradley, Emery

1988 - Matt Bowman, Timpview

1987 - Kurt Miller, Ben Lomond