Consistency and playmaking were hallmarks of the 2022-2023 Deseret News girls basketball Players of the Year, and there was never a moment they shied away from.
They played a variety of positions, but when it was crunch time for their teams they often had the ball in their hands and delivered in the biggest moments.
Here’s a look at the 2022-2023 Deseret News girls basketball Players of the Year.
6A Player of the Year
Shawnee Nordstrom, Lone Peak, 5-6, Guard, Jr.
The face of Lone Peak’s rise to national significance this season was Ms. Basketball Kailey Woolston. But the supporting cast surrounding her was just as key to that run, and junior guard Shawnee Nordstrom was tops on that list.
Nordstrom averaged 13.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game while also making 56 3-pointers, which ranked third in 6A.
“Shawnee is a very dynamic player who impacts the game on both ends of the floor. She has range, can shoot off the dribble and attack and finish in multiple ways. Her quick first step, ability to handle the ball and score in a variety of ways, all while keeping her vision of the floor really challenges her defenders and makes our team successful,” said Lone Peak coach Nancy Warner.
“She has a great feel for and understanding of the game, oftentimes making unbelievable reads and passes. Shawnee is also a great defender who anticipates so well and uses her quickness to keep opponents in front of her.”
Nordstrom scored in double figures in all four state tournament games, and knocked down eight 3-pointers. Her 3-pointer in the state championship game against Skyridge swung momentum in Lone Peak’s way for good.
“She continuously proved her abilities throughout this season and against some of the best competition in the country,” said Warner. “Shawnee is such a joy to coach. She loves a challenge, loves the game, loves to compete and loves her teammates. I believe that’s a great recipe for success and I love her example on our team. I love how she is always ready for the moment, is focused on improving, and gives 100% effort, wanting to do what’s best for the team, making her an exceptional teammate.”
5A Player of the Year
Taylor Harvey, Bountiful, 6-3, Wing, So.
The pursuit of a state championship was a family affair for Bountiful this season, led in a big way by the youngest member.
Sophomore Taylor Harvey, the daughter of assistant coach Tony Harvey and younger sister of her senior teammate, Jordyn, was the leading scorer, 3-point shooter and shot-blocker for the Redhawks. She averaged 14.67 points per game, made 22 3s and averaged 1.7 blocks per game. She had four double-doubles on the season and only twice scored less than double figures.
“Taylor is a very driven athlete,” Bountiful coach Joel Burton said. “She is willing to do whatever role is needed for she and her team to have success. We had games this year where she was the facilitator because of how she was being played and others where she became the scorer. It is always about winning and success for her team. She is a great teammate.”
In the 5A semifinals against Skyline, in a close contest throughout, Taylor Harvey’s versatility was perhaps unintentionally evidenced when the shot clock threatened to expire with her holding the ball bar behind the top of the key. At her coach’s urging, she launched an NBA-range 3-pointer on a moment’s notice and buried it.
“She is fun to coach and is always working to be better,” Burton said. “She is a very talented basketball player and even better person. I am glad we have two more years with her.”
4A Player of the Year
Emilee Skinner, Ridgeline, 5-11, Guard, So
In her second season of high school basketball, Emilee Skinner made it look like she’d been at it for years.
The sophomore — who took home 4A player of the year honors last year as a freshman — finished the season with averages of 21 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.8 steals (each team highs), all while maintaining a 2.75 assist-to-turnover ratio and 65% shooting from the field.
Skinner’s standout season helped lead the RiverHawks to an undefeated season and the school’s first ever 4A state title.
Though the numbers, especially at her age, are staggering, Ridgeline coach Ainsli Jenks said that Skinner cares only about winning.
“It was obvious when Emilee came into the program as a freshman that she could fill up a stat sheet on a nightly basis, but I love that it isn’t something she focuses on as a player,” Jenks said.
“She consistently builds up her teammates, cheers them on and recognizes their contributions to the team’s success as well as any individual recognition that she receives. Emilee recognizes that we play a team sport, and that success requires having teammates as committed as she is.”
As scary as it may be for the rest of the 4A classification, it appears as though Skinner’s just scratching the surface of her overall potential.
“After an incredible freshman season most people would probably think she had peaked,” Jenks said. “Emilee proved she is still not done getting better.”
3A Player of the Year
Alyvia Jaffa, Morgan, 6-4, Center, Jr.
Just about every team that played Morgan this year had the same objective: stop Liv Jaffa.
Jaffa, a junior for the Trojans, was an unstoppable force in the paint on both ends of the floor as she averaged a double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds per game this season, leading Morgan to the 3A state championship in an upset over No. 1 Grantsville.
The 6-foot-4 center had plenty of challenges thrown her way and none seemed to faze her. In the semifinals against Richfield, she matched up with college-bound senior center Nicole Willardson in the paint, and for the most part, Jaffa dominated the matchup, collecting 22 points and six blocks.
Morgan coach Sterling Mack boldly compared Jaffa to NBA great LeBron James, saying that “she is just built differently.”
“She has been playing against varsity teams since she was in seventh grade,” Mack said. “When she was in my eighth grade P.E. class, I had to make a rule that she could only score one time because it was unfair for the entire class. This rule was against the boys as well, and these same boys are state champ football players and play on the varsity basketball team today. She is just different.”
With another year left to represent the maroon and white, Jaffa’s trajectory is skyward, and Mack hopes people buy into the belief that she will collect a paycheck playing basketball someday.
“Liv is a player that can be a McDonald’s All-American, play DI ball, and one day shine in the WNBA!”
2A Player of the Year
Anna Cutler, Kanab, 5-3, Guard, Jr.
For Kanab, it was about as successful a season as the school could’ve hoped for. The 22 wins and 2A state championship came in large part thanks to the Cowboys’ floor general, Anna Cutler.
The junior point guard put together a season that saw her average 14 points, 5.5 assists, three rebounds and three steals a game. Cutler strung together scoring totals of 22, 13 and 11 points during Kanab’s run in the state tournament.
Kanab coach Klint Glover said that Cutler’s skills and abilities are uncommon for a player at the high school level.
“Rarely do you see a high school athlete in our league who has worked so hard on technical aspects of the game — like hesitation moves and creating layup space — and then consistently executes those things in games like Anna can,” Glover said.
Glover said that without Cutler’s growth and adaptability as a player and teammate, the Cowboys wouldn’t have been find the success they did this season.
“I’m just so happy that the years of work Anna and her dad have put in during both the season and offseason has paid off for her,” Glover said. “It has obviously paid off big time for her coaches and teammates in the form of wins.”
With a player of the year award in the bag, Cutler will return as a senior next season as Kanab looks to take yet another step forward as a program.
1A Player of the Year
AnDee Van Dyke, Wayne, 5-7, Guard, Sr.
The Wayne Badgers’ 19-year wait for a basketball state championship ended in no small part thanks to AnDee VanDyke.
The senior averaged a team-high 13.95 points per game, the third-highest mark in 1A, and averaged 2.5 assists and collected 54 steals this season.
“She has to be the hardest working person I have ever coached,” Wayne coach Kerry Stevens said. Stevens has coached the Badgers for the last three years. “She spent about as much time in the gym on her own time as she did at practice. She was always trying to make herself better in all aspects of the game. She is a great leader and also a great example. She was a key player for our team.”
VanDyke’s resilience helped Wayne collect its second-ever state championship, the first since 2004. It was also the school’s first state title in any sport since 2015. Stevens said that stats hardly seemed to matter to her in her pursuit of a title.
“AnDee would do whatever it took to win the game, whether that was take the last shot or provide an assist to her teammates,” Stevens said. “She just wanted to win and took it pretty personal when we didn’t … I know AnDee will do great things with her life, and I know she is a very special, hardworking young lady. I’m glad I could be part of this chapter in her life.”