Long before the opening tip-off, Lone Peak High School basketball coach Quincy Lewis knew the 2012-2013 season could be special.
The talent on his squad was remarkable for a public high school from Utah County. He had won two consecutive state championships and several of his returning players were destined for Division 1 college programs (with several already committed to play at Brigham Young University). The young men had grown up together and had developed a special chemistry on the court. They knew one another's strengths and tendencies and, despite their notable individual talents, understood that the sum of their team truly was greater than its parts.
But Coach Lewis also understood the Knights' potential stretched beyond the lines of the basketball court. The stellar athletes are also good young men. Most, in fact, are committed Aaronic Priesthood holders who have learned that they could compete on the hardwood — and live up to their commitments as Latter-day Saints and future missionaries.
"Plus, they all had the support of strong families at home," said Coach Lewis. The Knights recognized they were, at once, representing their school, their families and their faith.
The results might never be duplicated in Utah high school basketball. The team finished with a 26-1 record that included wins over several of the top programs across the country. Lone Peak also claimed the 5A state championship by a 33-point margin. Many expect the team to be named the national champions in the coming days.
Along the way, they captured the attention of a wide audience, securing stories in national sports magazines and on the NBC's Today Show. The Knights' basketball acumen was obvious — but many of the stories also focused on the young men's religious convictions. By season's end, three of the seniors had already accepted mission calls.
BYU-commit Nick Emery will serve in the Germany Frankfurt Mission before beginning his college basketball career. Talon Shumway, who will play football at BYU, will leave soon to serve in McAllen, Texas. Braden Miles, has been assigned to serve in Washington D.C.
Others are preparing for their calls or planning to serve after a year of college ball.
"I've been blessed with so much in my life that I've got to give those blessings back, and go give the people of Germany that peace that I've felt in my life with the gospel and all it has to offer," said Nick in a Church-produced video. "A change of team, it's the Lord's team — that's how I think of it."
The leader that steers the proverbial ship has also enjoyed a historic personal season. Coach Lewis was recently named the national high school coach of the year. It's been a busy year for the coach. After working several hours each day with the Knights, he would often pull on a shirt and tie and rush to the local meetinghouse to fulfill his duties as a bishop's counselor in the Cedar Hills 12th Ward, Cedar Hills Utah Stake.
The bishopric assignment "has helped keep things in perspective," said Coach Lewis. Yes, it's important for his team to, say, know how to attack a full-court press. But he has also taught and learned lessons of eternal worth while serving fellow ward members each week.
Coach Lewis is excited to follow his team's future success on their missions and in the college ranks. He's especially pleased knowing many of "his guys" will be playing a few miles south at BYU.