5A boys' basketball: Lone Peak's Emery plays with broken thumb
Ogden • Nick Emery's exceptional left hand will be in a cast Sunday.
It should have been all week, but the Lone Peak senior guard would not go out on that note. He got this far with his teammates, his best friends, and couldn't fathom missing the final four games, those precious 128 minutes.
The star broke his thumb on his shooting hand in practice last Thursday. He was running through a typical drill, reached out his left hand and his thumb was hit.
Lone Peak coach Quincy Lewis and his staff faced the prospect of not having one of the country's premier players for a run at history, a 24-hour window filled with stress and sudden planning.
"We went through everything from, 'Do we have to cast it now to he may not be able to play,'" Lewis said.
That weekend, Emery went to a local gym with older brother Jackson and worked relentlessly on drills with a splint on his left thumb. He worked on his shot and participated in ball-handling drills to see how the injury affected his handle.
"I didn't even know if he'd be able to shoot," Lewis said.
He shot it. His final 3-point basket as a Lone Peak Knight in Saturday's Class 5A title win over Alta was a 30-footer, a shot Emery has grown synonymous with taking and making.
"I wanted to find a way to play and be with my teammates one last time," said Emery, who finishes with more 3-point baskets than anyone else in Utah high school history. "This is the greatest feeling."
To his credit, he did. He worked his way back from a nightmare.
"We knew we had to come together as a team with or without him," said junior TJ Haws, "but Nick is such a warrior. He's absolutely incredible."
His 13 points in Lone Peak's championship game pushed Emery past Jimmy Soto into eighth place for most points scored in a high school career.
A gray wrap was noticeable throughout the Class 5A tournament, but after he won his third state title, Emery put on a soft brace to ease the pain. As the last player to cut down the net, he did so right-handed.
One of Emery's best friends, senior Talon Shumway, was at the doctor's office with him when they found out about the break. Shumway said Emery didn't panic and said there even was a sense of calm knowing that if the worse case scenario indeed did peek out, the Knights were, first and foremost, a team.
"I knew there was no way it'd change him at all," Shumway said.
But Emery said the thumb did bother him somewhat through the week. He obviously adjusted his shot and the way he handled the ball due to the discomfort in this, his last week of high school basketball.
Shumway shrugged in the bowels of the Dee Events Center, leaning against a wall as he saw his close friend field questions a few feet away.
"There he is," he said, "still being Nick."