Byline: Josh Loftin
Finals week will come early for the Wasatch Academy boys basketball team and its ambitious national schedule.
After starting the season 6–1 and winning the Legacy Tipoff Classic in Las Vegas, the Tigers will enter a 10-day stretch of eight games that includes the best team in Utah, two of the best teams in Colorado, and potentially the best team in the country.
The Tigers play in the Free Tax USA Shootout Thursday through Saturday. The tournament is held at Orem High School, with all Wasatch Academy games streamed through High School Cube. Here are capsules for each opponent:
Overland High School, Aurora, Colo. (Thursday, 3:30 p.m.): Ranked #1 in Colorado and in the top 50 nationally, Overland boasts three Division 1 players. Two of their seniors have already committed to Mountain West schools, but their star is junior center De’Ron Davis. The 6’8″ Davis is the top-rated prospect in Colorado and third-best center in the country. He already has offers from the likes of Arizona and Kansas.
Denver East High School (Friday, 2 p.m.) Although the defending 5A champions in Colorado, Denver East only has one returning starter from last season. Still, MaxPreps has them rated #3 in Colorado and they certainly have the skill to compete. The Shootout is friendly territory for Denver East, who won it last year.
Lone Peak High School, Lehi, Utah (Friday, 8:30 p.m.) Two questions dominated Utah prep basketball last year: Could Wasatch Academy actually play with the likes of four-time 5A state champion and 2013 national champion Lone Peak? And how would the Tigers junior guard Koby McEwen, a three-star recruit still relatively unknown, match-up against Lone Peak’s Frank Jackson, considered by many the best player in the state? Those questions will be answered Friday night in a game carried live on KMYU (2.2 over the air, 12 on satellite locally and 22 on Comcast). Lone Peak opened the season at #1 in Utah and in the top 50 nationally, and along with Jackson have a top-rated sophomore transfer from Las Vegas in Christian Popoola. Wasatch Academy, meanwhile, sits at #3. A Tiger win would make a huge statement, but on any given night toppling the Knights would be huge challenge. On this night, the Tigers will be on their third game in two days against a rested team that will not overlook the upstart school from Sanpete County.
Timpview (Saturday, 4 p.m.): The Tigers final game has all of the makings of a trap game, played 18 hours after they face Lone Peak. Timpview will almost assuredly remember their 82–49 loss to the Tigers in the Tarkanian Classic last year, and they will look to exploit the Tigers weariness. Timpview tore through the 4A ranks last year — they went 13–2 after a loss to the Tigers before a first-round upset in the state tournament — and features an athletic line-up that includes star quarterback (and the 2014 Mr. Football in Utah) Britain Covey. Anybody who looks at the Tigers win last year as a barometer for this game will likely be in for a shock.