Stereotypes be damned.
The Lone Peak Knights were the best high school basketball team across 50 states for a season. They won their third straight Class 5A title — the school’s sixth crown under wizard Quincy Lewis — and are soon to be named national champions by MaxPreps.com for a reason.
A team consisting of mainly Caucasian talents, a group of kids living in Highland, Utah, dominated the court through jaw-dropping alley-oops, 3-point barrages and air-tight defense.
As the season wore on, the narrative shifted. It wasn’t a great team of high-end talents playing a team game better than any other team in the nation.
It suddenly was all about skin color.
It was “those white kids from Utah.”
It was about what they were more than who they were.
The Knights were high school basketball players. Really, really good ones at that. They did everything their coach asked of them, even when he approached them in August and told them they had a chance to contend for a national championship.
When all the eyes were fixated on basketball stars at private schools across the country, Lewis and Lone Peak worked and worked and worked. It paid off, and when the light at the end of the tunnel began to brighten more and more, the national media latched on.
“The Today Show” as well as The New York Times produced pieces on the Knights. The subject of race was a focal point, about how the Knights consistently caught people off guard at national tournaments, which is true.
But the focal point should be centered around reality. And the reality is Lone Peak, which finished the year 26-1, winning nine of its 10 national-scale games, was the best because it had the talent and drive to accomplish a goal.
Plenty of teams have more talent than the Knights, but no team in the country played as voraciously every game. Coming from Utah no doubt landed a weighted chip on the shoulder of these Knights, which helped them, but that carries a team only so far.
Unfortunately, we’ve bought into stereotypes for so long that we carry them with us — that something unique as a team of predominantly Caucasian basketball players will be known as a dominant white basketball team, rather than just a run-you-out-of-the-gym group of hoopers.
The Knights participated in their final national tournament of the year at the Spalding Hoop Hall Classic in Springfield, Mass., on Jan. 21, to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. They hosed Archbishop Mitty by 35 points on ESPN that morning.
It was both ironic and fitting — a team breaking a preconceived mold, playing ball and doing so honoring equality in a roundabout way.
Stereotypes be damned.