High school boys basketball: Deseret News 2020-21 Players of the Year were dynamic two-way players
American Fork’s Jaxon Kohler, Lehi’s Noa Gonsalves, Cedar City’s Dallin Grant, Juab’s Ty Allred, Layton Christian’s Jerheim Elder and Panguitch’s Kyler Bennett are the 2020-21 Deseret News boys basketball Players of the Year.
The 2020-21 high school boys basketball season had plenty of ups and downs as teams navigated challenges presented by COVID-19, but this year’s Deseret News Players of the Year were steady throughout the season and were the best players in their classification from start to finish.
Some finished by lifting a state championship trophy at season’s end, others did not, but all six made a major impact on their classification this season.
Here’s a look the 2020-2021 Deseret News boys Players of the Year.
6A Player of the Year
Jaxon Kohler, American Fork — Jr., 6-8, F
Playing in the state’s toughest region from top to bottom, and then against a pretty difficult preseason schedule that included teams like Wasatch Academy, Bingham, Layton and Ridgeline, American Fork junior center Jaxon Kohler played the best of the best almost every night this past season. He delivered exceptional performances virtually every night as well, lifting the Cavemen to a 17-7 season and a 6A semifinal appearance.
“Jaxon is one of the hardest working players that I have ever coached. His skill development and footwork in the post is unbelievable. He not only puts in the work but he studies the game constantly. He is such a pleasure to work with him because of his desire to get better everyday,” said American Fork coach Ryan Cuff.
Kohler finished the season averaging 21.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists. In the semifinals he recorded 26 points and 18 rebounds to keep the game close.
“Jaxon loves the game and his consistency throughout the season helped his team get to the final 4. He was a great leader on the court and he made those around him better. He was always ready to play and gave his best effort every single game. We are excited to see what he can accomplish his senior year with his teammates,” said Cuff.
5A Player of the Year
Noa Gonsalves, Lehi — Sr., 6-1, G
A first team all-stater as a junior, Lehi senior guard Noa Gonsalves elevated his game to an even higher level this season in leading his school to its first state championship since 1998.
Statistically his production was about the same as a year ago, but his shooting percent from the field, from 3-point range and the free-throw line all went up. He also increased his assists per game from 2.1 to 4.8 this season.
That collective sharing of the ball on Lehi’s talented squad made all the difference in closing the season on an impressive four-game winning streak in the state playoffs.
“Noa was a very good shooter and scorer, but really developed his all-around game this year. He had 13 rebounds in the state championship and had six steals in the semifinals. His defense was excellent. But more than anything he played his best on the biggest stage in the state tournament. He simply would not let our team lose,” said Lehi first-year coach Quincy Lewis.
Gonsalves finished the season averaging 18.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.7 steals.
In Lehi’s 5A semifinal win over Olympus, Gonsalves scored 22 points on 7 of 13 from the field and 4 of 9 from 3-point range. He also added eight rebounds, six steals and four assists.
It the championship win over Lehi the following night, he added 19 points and 13 of his team’s 22 rebounds.
4A Player of the Year
Dallin Grant, Cedar City — Sr., 6-7, F
Cedar City’s run to the 4A state championship was one of the best stories to come out of the crazy COVID-19 season.
The catalyst to the Reds’ first state championship since 1995 was senior Utah State commit Dallin Grant.
He did whatever was necessary on a nightly basis, and finished the season leading the team averaging 16.4 points and 5.8 rebounds, while finishing second in assists at 2.4 per game.
“Dallin was a huge part of why we won it all. He put his personal agenda aside and did what the team needed him to do. I knew we had turned the corner this year when I asked him what we needed to do to get him a shot, and he said, ‘Coach it is OK.’ Dallin can do it all on the court, but he is a better young man off it,” said Cedar coach Mike Esplin.
Grant’s unselfishness made the Reds that much more difficult to guard. He was more than capable of going off, as he did for 20-plus points in wins over Pine View and Crimson Cliffs as Cedar ended the regular season on a four-game winning streak.
In the final game of the regular season Desert Hills made a concerted defensive effort to hold down Grant, who only finished with six points, but three other players scored in double figures.
The storyline was similar in the championship rematch, as Grant had modest contributions against Desert Hills with eight points and eight rebounds, but it allowed others to go off on a night of celebration for Cedar.
3A Player of the Year
Ty Allred, Juab — Sr., 6-8, C
There weren’t many players more consistent than Juab center Ty Allred in the entire state this season.
Allred scored in double figures all 25 times he stepped on the court, averaging 18.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.3 steals, and in the process leading Juab to its first state championship in 61 years.
“Ty Allred is a terrific scorer, leader and teammate. He led our team in field goal and free throw percentage, points, rebounds and was third in assists. He is a complete player who does what is needed to get the win,” said Juab coach Kamron Wright. “He is the type of player who makes those around him better. Ty was fantastic at protecting the rim and defending anything in the paint. As good of a player as Ty is, he was a better teammate who put the team goals before any individual goals.”
In Juab’s four playoff wins he upped his production even more averaging 19.3 points and 9.0 rebounds.
2A Player of the Year
Jerheim Elder, Layton Christian — Sr., 6-3, G
As the best scorer on the team this year, Layton Christian senior Jerheim Elder could’ve easily gotten away with taken it a bit easy on the defensive side of the ball to save his legs.
That just wasn’t Elder’s style this season. He prioritized both sides of the ball, which was a big reason the Eagles claimed the 2A state title in their final season before bumping up to 3A.
“Jerheim is a young man who is a hardworking, team-oriented guy. It is amazing in this day and age to find players who take pride in playing both sides of the ball. Jerheim always asks to guard the best player on the other team and more often than not shuts them down. This young man is a good player but a better teammate,” said Layton Christian coach Bobby Porter.
Elder finished the season leading Layton Christian in scoring averaging 12.3 ppg.
He was at his best down the stretch of the season, scoring 16 points in a semifinal win over Parowan and then 19 points in the 2A state championship win over Enterprise.
1A Player of the Year
Kyler Bennett, Panguitch — Jr., 6-5, C
Heading into this year’s 1A state tournament, most coaches in 1A would’ve agreed that the RPI seeding for the top eight seeds was pretty interchangeable. That’s exactly how it played out as well, with quality games in the quarterfinals, semifinals and championship, with No. 4 seed Panguitch ultimately prevailing.
The steadying component to Panguitch’s run to the title was junior center Kyler Bennett.
He finished the season averaging 11.2 points for the Bobcats, and was even more clutch in the state tournament averaging 14.0 ppg.
“A second team all-state player a year ago, Kyler has been an important piece in our program over the last three years. He is a great kid, who cares about his teammates on and off the floor,” said Panguitch coach Clint Barney. “Kyler led our team in most statistical categories including points, rebounds and blocks. He is an unselfish player that cares more about team victories and team success than individual success. This attitude has trickled down to each of our players and has created a well-balanced, team-first attitude.”