Prep basketball: Lone Peak's Haws is All-Tribune Team MVP
Reporters gathered around Lone Peak coach Quincy Lewis near the Huntsman Center scorer's table. The Knights just had capped another season with another Class 5A state title, and fans flocked from the seats, swarming the players in a mosh on the court.
Lewis looked on with a smile. And it was then that he finally uttered the word so many already had attributed to his star player, guard T.J. Haws, who had been the driving force all season behind the Knights' success: greatness.
"What he did in this game, that's what greatness is all about," Lewis said, describing Haws' final high school game, a 29-point effort littered with long 3-pointers.
The senior guard had begun the season hoping for history with a fourth straight state title, but he walked off the court for the last time as a Knight having achieved greatness, reaching heights few players if any in Utah prep basketball ever had before him.
"On one side, you have to say T.J. is the most successful player to ever play in the state, and you can't really debate it," Lewis said two weeks after the state title game. "Four state championships, top 10 in scoring, All-State all four years. On the other side of that, you look at who are the best players ever to play in the state. It's hard to choose just one, but he's definitely in that conversation."
Haws also has had time to ponder his high school career and the legacy he'll leave behind since the season ended. He is proud of the championships and the stats, and of the work it took to get them.
But when it comes to where he fits in among the state's high school basketball hierarchy, Haws himself is unsure.
"I don't know if I ever really thought about it up until after we won [the state title]," said Haws, who will follow in the footsteps of his brother Tyler and play at BYU following an LDS Church mission. "But it's amazing to be up there with all the great players who have come through Utah. I'm just lucky to be part of that conversation."
Haws was a master craftsman throughout the season. His tools were NBA-range 3-pointers that caught defenders on their heels, acrobatic drives to the hole and quick dishes to open teammates in the corner or under the basket.
And if there was a hole in his game, the opposition never found it. He averaged 25.1 points, 5.4 assists and hit 95 3s, the third-highest single-season total in Utah history.
"You look at all the defenses he saw all year," Lewis said. "It's not like people weren't trying to guard him. Box-and-one, double-teams, whatever. They tried everything."
Pleasant Grove coach Randy McAllister has spent many hours over the last four years trying to devise a defense Haws couldn't break. But now that Haws would never again torment the Vikings, McAllister chuckled and gave away the secret: There might be no such thing.
"This year, we knew if he had a day like he had against us on that championship day, there's not a lot you can do about it," he said. "Even if you have a game plan for him, and you execute it to perfection, it's not really going to matter. On any day he can have a day so good your game plan doesn't matter. That's pretty rare.
"I don't know if there's a better compliment than that."
T.J. Haws' senior stats
Pts • 25.1
Ast • 5.4
3-pointers • 95