Wasatch Academy headed for Geico National Championship tourney in New York
MOUNT PLEASANT — The old polished hardwoods in the movie "Hoosiers" provide an iconic symbol that resembles a gym in Utah. It’s a feel, an atmosphere. It is the home of the Wasatch Academy basketball program. It’s where basketball is tinkered with on a global level and bookwork is granular as can be.
Wasatch Academy will play in the Geico National Championship Tournament April 4-6 in New York City as the No. 6 seed in what is labeled the strongest field in the history of the 11-year-old event. The private and independent school from Utah will take on No. 3-ranked and No. 3 seed Montverde Academy (Florida) in the first round. All games will be televised on ESPN’s family of network programming.
Absolutely. Only the top eight teams in the country are selected out of more than 40,000, and most experts say that during the next few years Wasatch Academy (26-3), will be even better than this year’s team. When this team plays Utah competition it turns into a dunk fest.
Coach Dave Evans left a Utah high school powerhouse for an elevator ride going up when he departed Lone Peak High for Wasatch Academy late last year. He’s in a whole new orbit with this small school located in the backyard of Utah’s Wasatch Front, near Moroni and Ephraim, just a beautiful canyon drive east of Nephi between Fairview and Spring City. Next month, the stakes are colossal for this school.
It’s by far the most dominant high school program in the state. Hence, it doesn’t play — and opponents do not want them to play — in any of Utah’s six divisions. Instead, Evans takes on an independent schedule that has taken this squad 24,875 miles this season — from California and Las Vegas in the West to Florida, Maryland and Georgia in the East.
This is unlike anything at Lone Peak, American Fork or anywhere else in Utah.
“I think the biggest thing is that the issues you have at a school like Lone Peak are different than the issues you have here,” said Evans, whose experience coaching at BYU-Hawaii and in Europe helped prepare him. “But even this is different.”