It’s been over two decades since the film White Men Can’t Jump came out, but racial stereotypes in the game of basketball still exist today. Perhaps it’s this thinking that surprises opponents of an all-White high school basketball team which boasts the best record in the nation.
The players belonging to Utah’s Lone Peak Knights had no trouble making their way into the 5A semifinals, thanks to their 84-50 victory this week, and have garnered national attention based on their appearance. In a location known for its dedication to the Mormon faith, the students, and the area of Salt Lake City, aren’t exactly what comes to mind when thinking of basketball stars.
From The New York Times:
Here, among a string of quiet Mormon towns, where the spires of Latter-day Saints churches glint against the Wasatch Mountains, is the home of what many consider the nation’s best high school boys’ basketball team.
For the past two years, the Knights of Lone Peak High School, a team of lanky, long-armed teenagers who look only slightly more imposing than a chess club, have not just been beating opponents, they have been crushing them.
At 23-1, the Knights have been ranked as the best high school team in the country for more than a month by the Web site Max Preps and are working their way through the Utah state playoffs, which end Saturday. While Lone Peak has lost to in-state opponents just three times in the past three years, its success nationally is especially surprising. The Knights have won by an average of nearly 28 points this season, including tournament victories over top teams from Pennsylvania, Illinois and California.
“There was one team we played that was literally laughing when we were warming up,” said center Eric Mika. “We beat them by 50.”
Averaging a win by 28 points per game, coach Quincy Lewis noted that their opponents are usually not intimidated by the clean-cut collective, joking that they’ve been mistaken for a chess club.
“They like the pressure and they like to run, and that’s really something that has been reserved for inner city teams,” said Tyrone Slaughter, a high school basketball coach of a Chicago team which lost to Lone Peak last year. “They play exactly the way people would consider a Black team [would] play.”
Aware of the physical stereotypes hanging over their heads, many of the team members—who have been playing together since childhood— use the judgement as fuel. “They don’t think we’re good and we’re going to come out and prove it,” said one player.
Lone Peak is scheduled to play nearby Brighton High School in the 5A semifinals, Friday (March 1).
Hear more of their story in the video below.