Justin Rogers remembers the nerves he felt the first time he stepped onto the court as a starter for the Tooele boys basketball team.
“The first memory that comes to mind has to be my first game starting as a freshman — just the excitement, the first bucket scored and all that stuff,” he said.
Four years later, it was Rogers who struck fear into others when his name was introduced, game after game. That shy, quiet kid turned into a confident leader, and one of Class 4A’s premier big men, to boot.
Now, he’s the Transcript Bulletin’s 2020-21 High School Boys Basketball Player of the Year after an incredible senior season in which he averaged 20.0 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. For his career, he scored 1,416 points in 95 varsity games — an average of 14.9 per game.
“Hard work does not give you a 100% chance at success, but you have a 0% chance of success without hard work,” Rogers said. “Just because I’ve worked hard doesn’t mean I can expect to have things handed to me, but I definitely can not expect to get things if I don’t work hard.”
After playing more of a complementary role his first two years with the Buffaloes, Rogers asserted himself as one of the state’s best his junior year. He took that to the next level as a senior, leading the team in 3-pointers made (33), assists (60), steals (37) and blocks (31). However, he’s also proud of his contributions as a leader that casual observers might not notice.
“At the end of the day, I think it’s more fun to play basketball when you win,” Rogers said. “I think a big part of winning was that our team needed a leader, so I stepped up and tried to do the best I could to win every single game. It’s definitely fun to score a lot of points or to get the double-double each night, but I feel it’s more important to let your teammates know that you have their back — no matter what happens, they can trust you and that you’re going to do whatever it takes to win.”
Rogers headlines a loaded Transcript Bulletin All-County boys basketball team for 2020-21. Nine of the county’s top players would make for a formidable squad, particularly given the Tooele and Stansbury each reached the second round of the Class 4A state tournament and Grantsville finished third in Class 3A.
In fact, it was nearly impossible to narrow it down to just nine players. A team made up of those who just missed this list would be a tough out in its own right. But, in any case, here’s one person’s idea of what an all-Tooele County team might look like.
Carter Killian, G, Jr., Grantsville — Killian was as efficient as they come this past season, averaging 10.7 points per game on 57.3% shooting from the field to go with 4.0 rebounds, 4.8 steals and 2.1 steals.
Landen Giles, G, Jr., Stansbury — When Giles got going, the Stallions were hard to stop. He led Stansbury with 13.4 points per game and hit a team-high 49 3-pointers while also finishing second on the team in assists.
Julian Mahoe, F, Jr., Tooele — Mahoe averaged 9.3 points per game as the Buffaloes’ second-leading scorer, and his 4.3 rebounds per game also ranked second on the Tooele roster.
David Spaulding, F, Sr., Stansbury — Spaulding borough heart and effort to the floor every night for the Stallions, and it showed in the stats. He scored 7.8 points per game and was the team’s second-leading rebounder at 6.0 per contest.
Davin Ekins, C, Sr., Grantsville — Ekins was the leading scorer for Class 3A’s third-place team, averaging 15.2 points per contest while shooting just under 70% from the field. He also grabbed 8.6 rebounds per game and blocked 26 shots in 21 games.
Logan Richins, G/F, Jr., Stansbury — Richins did a little bit of everything for the Stallions as their second-leading scorer (11.5 ppg) and top rebounder (8.3 rpg), while also providing 1.5 steals per game.
Tuhker Mulford, G/F, Sr., Grantsville — One of the state’s deadliest shooters from long range, Mulford averaged 12.3 points per game while shooting 64-of-137 (46.7%) from beyond the 3-point arc.
McCade Laughlin, G/F, Sr., Tooele — Laughlin ranked third on the Buffs in scoring (4.4 ppg) and third in 3-pointers made with 18. He also set a good example off the court, joining Rogers on the Class 4A Academic All-State squad.