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Top state champion football players lending their talents to basketball teams' success

On Nov. 17 Bingham defeated East 27-14 for the 6A football state championship, which marked the end of an always physically-taxing gridiron season for all the players involved. Many of those same players likely took time to celebrate or take some well-deserved rest — save for six of them who had to be up for 7 a.m. basketball tryouts the very next morning.

Bingham receiver Dax Milne, who played a big role in his football team's championship run, admits to not being exactly thrilled with the 7 a.m. appointment.

"There's no break. Absolutely no break," Milne said. "You really want that break, but we know we're already behind with basketball and we have to get right at it as soon as possible. That's just the way it is."

Milne, and his five football teammates, likely didn't show their best stuff on the hardwood the first day of tryouts, something well-understood by Bingham basketball coach Jake Schroeder. But it's just something you deal with as a coach who inherits top players late in the process most years, given the Miners' great football success.

“In order for us to have the best team we can, we have to have the top athletes,” Schroeder said. “Sure, you’re not going to have some of those top athletes as much as others, but that’s how it is and all of us understand it needs to be that way for all of us to be successful.”

And Bingham knows how to breed success better than just about anyone. The football and basketball teams have won two straight state championships, with the baseball program consistently proving among the state's best most years.

The programs have done as much borrowing top athletes from one another consistently and with the success speaking for itself.

“The lights aren’t too bright for any of them. That’s for sure,” Schroeder said. “We have a football program here that always seems to be at the top, or near the top, and that’s a benefit when those guys come in. And I like to think what we've been able to do helps with those players going on to play baseball."

Milne currently starts for Schroeder this season, along with Bingham quarterback Ryan Wood and receiver Brayden Cosper. Other Bingham football players contributing to the basketball team are Peyton Jones, Braisen Harward and Derek Soffe. All play important roles on the basketball team, according to Schroeder, with the hope of obtaining yet another championship for the Miners.

But Bingham isn't alone in using top football players to help breed basketball success.

Lehi, after taking the 5A state championship in football, has standouts such as Dallin Holker and Kade Moore starting for the basketball team. Orem, winners of the 4A football title, has players like Puka Nacua and Sean Anderson playing big roles for the Tigers basketball team, along with a few others.

Orem coach Golden Holt has been involved coaching basketball for a long time, and freely admits to harboring some thought of what a football standout like Nacua could become, should he focus on just basketball. Asking the 4-star football prospect to focus on just one sport would be in line with what many coaches are doing around the state and around the country.

“The feeling, in this day and age, is it’s sort of a requisite to do a sport for 12 months straight or you’re going to be left behind. But to me it’s just wrong,” Holt said. “High school sports are so precious, with the memories that they’ll have forever. It’s likely they’ll cherish these high school memories more than anything else, even the ones that are able to go on and play in college.”

For this reason, Holt has worked actively with other coaches to respect kids' desires to play and have the experiences they want, along with Schroeder and Lehi basketball coach Sean Yeager. But all coaches agree on the importance of focusing on just one sport at a time.

Holt recalls during his first year coaching at Orem several players showing up with bats and baseball mitts. He asked those players why they brought them, to which the players informed him for baseball workouts immediately following basketball practice. Holt, in turn, quickly went to work with Orem's other coaches in formulating a policy that would benefit all.

“We have what we call an ‘All-in’ policy here at Orem and it’s exactly what the title suggests,” Holt said. “It means that when you’re playing that sport, you only focus on that sport. With the support of the administration we’ve been able to do it with some good success."

Holt, along with other coaches, understand players may choose to shoot some hoop during football season or go to a batting cage during basketball season, and even encourage it. But as far as team activities and workouts go — it's all about the team they're currently playing for.

"I just think it’s so important for these kids to completely give everything to the team they’re involved with," Holts said. "When it’s football season, I don’t want to see these kids working out with the basketball team, just as I don’t want to see our basketball players working out with the baseball team.”

Giving everything to a particular program has brought about a lot of success for Bingham and Orem in recent years, and may do the same for Lehi and others. It's the type of success Milne will look back on after his years at Bingham are over, and is why he's more than willing to wake up for a 7 a.m. workout the day after winning a football championship.

"It's tough, but I don't want to look back at my high school years with any regret," Milne said. "I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to play on some great teams here. So that's why I do it, along with all my teammates."


Twitter: @BrandonCGurney