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High school boys basketball: MVPs shared an extraordinary work ethic which propelled them to greatness

The 2019-20 basketball MVPs all shared one important attribute to rise above the competition.

(Clockwise from left to right) Ethan Potter, Layton; Zach Visentin, Springville; Mason Falslev, Sky View; Grady Thompson, Manti; Ky Brown, Beaver; Treyson Roberts, Bryce Valley
Deseret News

Fans and media alike often just see the finished product, unaware of the work hours sacrificed in making that highly productive product a reality. The 2019-20 boys basketball MVPs from each classification each shared an extraordinary work ethic which propelled them to greatness and recognition.

Here’s a list of this year’s MVPs as picked by the Deseret News with input from the state’s coaches. The first-, second-, and third-team selections were voted on by the coaches:

6A MVP: Ethan Potter, Layton

Layton’s Ethan Potter drives between Fremont’s Baylor Harrop and Kipp Calder in a 6A boys basketball semifinal game at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Buoyed by a remarkable and unselfish supporting cast, Ethan Potter played at a high level all year for the Layton Lancers. True to form, Potter played his best when the stakes were highest, scoring 22 points and pulling down 14 rebounds in his final game, a tough 72-66 loss to eventual 6A champion Fremont in the semifinal round.

The numbers were largely the same he put up the entire season, which speaks to his consistency, but also a great supporting cast, which Layton coach Kelby Miller was quick to point out.

“Ethan is a great player, and deserving of the MVP, but he didn’t get there alone, and he’d be the first to say as much,” Miller said. “We had a team this year which featured balanced scoring and a truly unselfish nature, which Ethan taking the lead, in that regard.”

Miller describes Potter as someone well-liked by all his teammates and a true leader, with his example leading the Lancers throughout this past season.

“He’s just a great kid, more than anything,” Miller said. “He’s great to be around and really coachable. He always wants to improve and teammates just love him. They love to be around him.”

His work ethic showed in the development of his overall game during his time at Layton.

“We’ve challenged him every year to become a more complete player, and he responded every time,” Miller said. “He works and works to become the best player he can, and that showed this year with his ability to not only score down low, but from the perimeter and driving to the basket. He really became a complete player.”

Just a junior, the 6-foot-8 Potter already has received college looks, and is likely to receive increased interest heading into his senior year.

“You love seeing that, as a coach, and I couldn’t be happier for Ethan’s success because he’s worked hard to earn every bit of it,” Miller said.

5A MVP: Zach Visentin, Springville

Springville’s Zachary Visentin looks toward the basket for a shot as Timpview and Springville play in the 5A boys state basketball championship in the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. Springville won 66-53.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Towering over most opponents at 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds, Zach Visentin is a load and consistently proves tough to handle for just about anyone. Sure, his size gives him an advantage, but like all of this year’s MVPs, he didn’t just roll out of bed and lead the Red Devils to a state championship.

Visentin put in the time, with Springville coach Justin Snell focusing on that aspect when discussing his star player.

“He’s worked so hard to get to where he’s at,” Snell said. “When we first got him here at Springville, he’d largely just hang out around the 3-point line and figure out where he could fit, but as anyone could see, he’s way beyond that now, and it’s because of his hard work and dedication to get better.”

Visentin averaged 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game this season, consistently punishing opponents down low, and occasionally on the outside.

“You see a guy with that kind of size finish like he does around the rim, and you think it comes easy, but that’s never the case,” Snell said. “He’s worked tirelessly to be able to do what he does consistently.”

Given Springville’s stellar football program, it’s somewhat surprising Visentin just plays basketball, but given his bloodlines, among other factors, basketball has long been the focus.

“Both his mother and father were college basketball players, so it’s a basketball family,” Snell said. “He’s thought about playing football, but he’s determined basketball is what he wants to focus entirely on.”

Visentin’s focus has reaped rewards, and he’ll now have a chance to follow in his parent’s footsteps in playing college basketball after signing a letter of intent with Idaho State.

“I couldn’t be happier for him. He deserves it,” Snell said.

4A MVP: Mason Falslev, Sky View

Dixie plays defense against Sky View’s guard Mason Falslev (12) during the 4A boys championship basketball game at the Dee Events Center in Ogden on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020.
Ivy Ceballo, Deseret News

4A MVP Mason Falslev could easily be argued the best athlete in the entire state, given the fact he was named as the 4A football MVP just months prior to being named 4A’s best in basketball.

Signed to play for Utah, the 6-foot-4 guard presents a lot of potential on both the gridiron and the hardwood, putting in the time necessary to excel at both major sports.

“I really noticed it this past summer,” said Sky View coach Kirk Hillyard. “He’d wake up at 7 a.m. every morning to go through football workouts and conditioning, and that’s not easy. Most kids are spent after football workouts, but every day, there’d be Mason, after two hours of hard conditioning, hitting the basketball court for two hours after that.”

It would be the routine for Falslev for four to five days a week over the summer, according to Hillyard.

“He was able to develop a strong work ethic early on because of his family, and particularly, I think, because of his father,” Hillyard said. “Mason has never been afraid of working out as much as possible and doing whatever necessary to become the player he is.”

Falslev averaged 20 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists for the Bobcats this past season, leading them all the way to the state championship game where they narrowly lost 62-59 to Dixie.

As for replacing Falslev, it’s going to be all but impossible.

“I don’t like thinking about it,” Hillyard said. “I mean, he’s been a four-year starter for us and just the thought of not having him around in the gym — I honestly don’t even like thinking about it. He’s meant so much to this program with his leadership and work ethic — I just don’t know how you replace that.”

3A MVP: Grady Thompson, Manti

Manti’s Grady Thompson (4) attempts to score against Judge Memorial during the 3A boys basketball semifinals at the Lifetime Activities Center in Taylorsville on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020.
Ivy Ceballo, Deseret News

Manti lost just a single game this past season for a truly rare and special accomplishment, with Grady Thompson leading the Templars’ road to perfection every step of the way.

Averaging 12.8 points per game, along with 6.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists, the 6-foot-2 guard was central to everything the Templars did in capping off a truly remarkable season.

“What sets him apart is the work he puts in,” said Manti coach Devin Shakespear. “In the offseason he puts up the most shots and puts in the most time and effort. Sometimes it comes natural, and it does come natural for Grady, but it’s the work put in that truly separated him.”

The work put in led to stellar play on the floor, with Thompson playing the point effectively throughout.

“His floor vision and court awareness is some of the best I’ve ever coached or seen,” Shakespear said. “He just understands the game and has a great, great feel for it.”

Thompson also proved extraordinarily consistent and efficient.

“He’s what we term a ‘180’ player,” Shakespear said. “What that means is he shoots over 60% from 2-point range, over 40% from 3-point range and then over 80% from the line, and he’s done that for his career. It’s just real neat to see a kid that efficient.”

Thompson also proved unselfish throughout the year, able to get his teammates involved and proving a true team leader.

“That may be the best thing about Grady is how much of a team player he is,” Shakespear said. “He works well with everyone and our team really benefitted from his leadership and his unselfish nature.”

2A MVP: Ky Brown, Beaver

Beaver’s Ky Brown is the 2A boys basketball Deseret News MVP
Courtesy Chris Kesler

Ky Brown led Beaver in scoring this season, averaging 14.9 points per game, but according to Beaver coach Joe Hillock, one of his better games came when he finished scoring just four.

The venue was a tough quarterfinal matchup with Parowan, where Brown’s contributions came with everything other than putting points on the board.

“It showed how unselfish he is and how he can just influence the game in a lot of different ways,” Hillock said. “His defense was amazing throughout, along with his rebounding, and he just found a way to get us through for a tough win.”

Beaver won out in the game 40-35 and eventually went on to win the 2A state championship by virtue of Brown’s leadership and the stellar play of his teammates. Brown and those same teammates put the work throughout the offseason, leading to achieving the ultimate goal of any team.

“Our doors to our gym don’t open until 5:30 in the morning in the offseason, but every day Ky would be there with a lot of his teammates to get going right when it unlocked,” Hillock said. “And I can tell you he’d always be the last to leave — at least more often than not.”

Brown proved a great leader throughout this past season, and not just on the court, according to Hillock.

“He’s a great friend to everyone on our team and truly cares how each is doing in their lives,” Hillock said. “He’s vocal, but not to the point where he upsets people. He’s always positive and in that way he’s helped me out, as a coach, tremendously. I can’t say enough about the kid and what he’s meant.”

1A MVP : Treyson Roberts, Bryce Valley

Bryce Valley’s Treyson Roberts is the Deseret News 1A MVP in boys basketball.
Courtesy Bryce Valley High School

Standing at 6-foot-6, Treyson Roberts did his best work in the paint for Bryce Valley this past year. It led to him leading the 1A state champions in scoring, averaging 15.6 points per game while proving to be a versatile player who can beat a defense in a number of ways.

“He’s great down low, but he’s also been great passing out of the post to get guys open and he’s really become a complete player,” said Bryce Valley coach Gary Syrett. “That’s the best thing about him, along with his leadership and work ethic.”

Bryce Valley needed all of that contribution in a tight 36-34 championship win over Panguitch, where Roberts led the team with 15 points to earn the narrow victory.

“He’s a really talented and skilled player who has worked very hard to get to where he’s at,” Syrett said. “He demands a double-team inside, which opens a lot of things for us and he really is the ultimate team player.”

As with all the MVPs, Roberts proved a tireless worker.

“We wanted him to get bigger and stronger for this past year, and he did it,” Syrett said. “He put in a lot of time in the gym lifting weights and really did everything we asked. He works year round to develop his skills and you saw the results this year.”