Of all the teams that fell victim to Olympus High’s offensive onslaught this season — which was all of them — they realistically have Springville to blame.
You see, Springville highlighted a rare weakness in Rylan Jones’ game in last year’s double-overtime championship game victory. It muscled and was very physical with Jones whenever he dribbled into the lane, forcing him into double-digit turnovers and numerous misses on contested shots at the rim even though he still finished with 29 points and eight assists.
It was a frustrating end to a great sophomore season and obviously left a bitter taste.
That game, however, set in motion a relentless resolve to get bigger, stronger and faster, and eventually woke a sleeping giant who dominated the 2017-2018 high school basketball season.
Olympus' Rylan Jones celebrates after a three point shot as American Fork and Olympus play in the Utah Elite 8 championship game at American Fork on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017. Olympus won 92-56. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
As a result, Jones has been named the 32nd Deseret News Mr. Basketball recipient.
Jones led Olympus to a perfect 27-0 record and the 5A state championship by averaging 18.3 points, 9.9 assists, 6.6 rebounds and 2.9 steals.
“In this day and age especially to be a pass-first point guard, to defend and rebound and do it all is pretty special for sure,” said Olympus coach Matt Barnes.
He was the engine behind the Olympus machine that set new state records for points in a season (2,275) and 3-pointers in a season (283). Jones also broke the state record for assists with 266.
The son of a coach, Jones has always been one of the best players in his age group. However, last year’s disappointing ending helped him raise the bar even higher, and the foundation was laid throughout last summer.
“Me and my dad every day when we’d work out, we’d start with finishing in the lane 'cause last year I missed a lot of shots that I should’ve made,” said Jones.
His dad, Chris Jones, is the director of basketball operations for the University of Utah men’s basketball team, and prior to that he spent eight years as an assistant at Utah State. One of his primary duties at Utah State was coaching the guards.
Olympus guard Rylan Jones, the 2018 Deseret News Mr. Basketball, poses for photos at Olympus High School in Holladay on Thursday, March 15, 2018. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
That experience aided Jones’ development throughout the summer, and getting stronger was at the core. Jones also worked with his strength coach, Sean Mooney, two or three times a week, and his mom as well, as she’s also a personal trainer.
“That was a big thing in the summer was just finishing through contact and getting stronger and not turning it over when I get in there,” said Jones. “I felt a lot stronger, a lot bigger, a lot more athletic than I did last year, and my finishing was much better because of it.”
That was a scary combination considering how aggressive Jones liked to push the pace offensively. He had a go, go, go mentality which usually led to very good results. Many times he’d blow by the defense and finish at the rim, but when those easy buckets weren’t there, he had the vision to pick out his lethal shooters along the perimeter.
“As quick and as fast as he is with the ball, he’s so under control. It’s crazy how much pressure he puts on the defense,” said Barnes. “He gets so many guys open shots and great shots and rhythm shots. You look at the numbers this year, they were off the charts.”
Barnes said Jones was strong enough and mature enough to handle whatever other teams threw at him. With a talented supporting cast surrounding him, it was the perfect storm.
“We had all five guys who could do everything, we played together, we all bought in and we played for each other. Like coach always said, chemistry, and we bought in and it was probably the funnest four months of my life,” said Jones, who committed to the University of Utah at the end of last summer.
For most of his childhood, playing for Utah State where his dad was an assistant coach for eight seasons was Jones’ dream.
Olympus' Rylan Jones (15) drives for a layup as the Bingham High Miners takes on the Olympus High Titans in a quarterfinal matchup of Utah Elite 8 in American Fork on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. | Adam Fondren, Deseret News
He attended countless games back “when the Spectrum was rocking and they were winning 26, 27 games per season.”
Jones played his freshman season at Logan High School, averaging 19.7 points and 4.0 assists per game, and was named a 3A first team all-stater.
Jones’ aspirations started to change when his dad accepted a job at the University of Utah just a week before the start of his sophomore season. The family had a week to decide where to move and which high school to have Jones attend and, for convenience purposes, they moved in with the parents of Jones’ mother in the Olympus boundaries.
Barnes said it didn’t take the sophomore long to fit in at Olympus.
“He won us over Day 1 when he moved down here from Logan. He just plays the game the right way,” said Barnes.
Having achieved the ultimate goal of winning a state title in his third year of varsity basketball, you’d think Jones would be eager to jump to the next step in his career at the University of Utah. Not quite yet, though.
“I want to stay here and keep living the Olympus High dream and hopefully bring back another state championship next year. There’s never too much high school basketball, with the crowds, the coach we have here, the teammates,” he said.
That’s bad news for the rest of 5A because Jones proved throughout his junior season that there aren’t really any more weaknesses to exploit.