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High school basketball: Wasatch Academy puts on a show in 100-62 rout over Juan Diego

Local teams are typically overmatched when taking on national powerhouse Wasatch Academy, with Friday’s game proving no exception.

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Wasatch Academy coach Dave Evans talks to his team in the huddle during the Tigers’ game against Juan Diego in Mt. Pleasant on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020.

Brandon Gurney, Deseret News

MT. PLEASANT, Sanpete County — What Wasatch Academy has going is nothing short of remarkable, with Friday’s 100-62 win over Juan Diego showcasing a lot of it.

Located in a town resembling a spot where someone stops to ask directions when completely lost and out of cellphone service range, Wasatch Academy houses one of the nation’s premier basketball programs. And not just any random year, for that matter, as the Tigers have proven one of the nation’s best going on several years now.

All of it is remarkable and downright impressive.

Take Friday’s game, which had the Soaring Eagle get off to a quick 6-0 lead, which was subsequently answered by a 17-0 run, culminating into a 26-10 lead after one quarter and a 52-27 lead at the half.

“This team, maybe more so than other teams I’ve had, is really selfless. Any night we can have any one of several guys leading us because we’ve been fortunate to have so many high-level guys within the program.” — Wasatch Academy coach Dave Evans

But standards are high at Wasatch Academy, and its coach, Dave Evans, wasn’t completely smiles after.

“We weren’t focused coming out, and it showed,” Evans said. “We have to be better than we were tonight at the start, so that’s definitely something we’ll work on, and I also thought we gave up way too many easy buckets.”

As for the rest, most of it flowed smoothly as the Tigers put forth a level of play you just don’t see often, if ever, at the high school level.

Leading the way were Cincinnati signee Mike Saunders and BYU signee Richie Saunders, each who contributed 20 points, with Fousseyni Traore adding 19 off the bench. Each of them contributed as much not by dominating the ball, but by playing within an offensive system where egos aren’t apparent.

“This team, maybe more so than other teams I’ve had, is really selfless,” Evans said. “Any night we can have any one of several guys leading us because we’ve been fortunate to have so many high-level guys within the program.”

High-level, indeed.

Four of the 17 players rostered at Wasatch Academy are signed with Division I programs, with Caleb Lohner having inked with Utah and Mady Sissoko with Michigan State, along with several more still deciding between multiple collegiate offers.

“The hardest thing is adjusting to maybe not being the main guy for a lot of these kids,” Evans said. “There’s a lot of basketball going on here and we work hard with them to develop that true team concept, and the kids have been great. Credit goes to them.”

With regards to Wasatch Academy’s rural location, and how 14 of Evans’ players come out of state, with seven of those 14 coming from another country, basketball may be the easiest adjustment at Wasatch.

“It is really tough for a lot of these kids. It’s a huge adjustment,” Evans said. “I’m always asked how I keep kids interested, but there’s no distractions here, at all. But the credit really goes to the kids, first, but also to the community and faculty we have here. There’s so much support, and that’s the thing people don’t understand. The faculty truly treats each student here as their own kid.”

With regards to where Evans wants to take the program, he hopes to maintain a high level of talent, but perhaps even more importantly, the right talent.

“We want guys who make that extra pass or are more than willing to learn to make that extra pass,” Evans said. “We look for that and we’re real selective who we bring in. We don’t want guys to take away from the system and so far we’ve been able to do that.”

As for Juan Diego, it was up against it from the start, although it showed good spurts, led by Talon Valdes’ game-high 22 points.

With the win, Wasatch Academy improves to 23-1 on the year and will next travel out to New Jersey to compete in the Bob Kirk Invitational, where lies another opportunity to prove itself against the nation’s best. Juan Diego drops to 11-6 with the loss.