5A boys' basketball: Mika provides missing piece for Lone Peak
Ogden • Eric Mika planned a simple celebration.
"Probably eat a lot of food and sit on my couch," Lone Peak's 6-foot-10 senior center said. "Do nothing, to be honest. I'm wiped out. This week is a lot of work."
Mika recorded his third double-double of the Class 5A state tournament in Saturday's 72-39 victory over Alta to claim the state title. While it was Lone Peak's third consecutive state championship, it was Mika's first on the court. He served as a team manager last season after begin forced to sit out because of state transfer rules.
So Mika took time to savor Saturday's victory. The team huddled for photos in front of one of the scoreboards at the Dee Events Center after their victory, and Mika was one of the last to get up off the floor. He laid there with his hands on his forehead, soaking in the atmosphere and magnitude of the team's accomplishments.
"He's one of the hardest workers I know," Lone Peak senior Nick Emery said. "It really means a lot. We're best friends. It's fun to do it with him."
Mika transferred from Waterford to Lone Peak for his junior year, a decision he never regretted.
"There were a lot of reasons, from schooling to friends, my cousins moved to Lone Peak," he said. "There were just a lot of things that I felt it was right."
But the decision meant he had to sit out last season. He loved to joke that he was the most talented water boy during his junior season. But that experience lit a fire in Mika, who averaged 16.25 points and 13 rebounds in the state tournament.
"I wanted to show what I could do, especially going to BYU next year," he said.
Mika provided an inside presence the Knights lacked last season. The tallest player on last season's roster was 6-3, so Mika provided a missing piece.
"He brought a big, physical presence for us inside," Lone Peak junior TJ Haws said. "Now you can't just guard us outside on the 3-point line. You have to respect the big presence inside."
Mika drew national attention as the season progressed. He saw his stock rise as the team played in tournaments around the country and leaped to No. 1 in the nation, according to MaxPreps.com. ESPN ranks Mika the 30th best player in the country in his class.
"Really that's the tipping point that changes this from a really good Utah team to a national team," Lone Peak coach Quincy Lewis said about the addition of Mika.
Mika admits the national attention was flattering, but it never caused him to second-guess his decision to attend BYU. He considers himself lucky to have been recruited when he was.
"Maybe a couple other schools would have given me a look, but I know I would have ended up at BYU," he said.
Mika said he feels like he belongs at BYU, just like he belonged at Lone Peak. He fit perfectly with the Knights, providing the inside presence they needed to become a national power. He displayed the bond he'd developed Saturday when he roared into the lane behind TJ Haws, who flipped a pass to the big man. Mika went up and slammed it with two hands.
When it was time for Mika and his teammates to exit the state's biggest stage, which came with 2 minutes, 40 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Mika received a huge hug from Lewis, just like the Knights' other starting five.
"I'm just going to remember that we capped it off right," he said.