On a boys basketball team that had a potent combination of skill, athleticism, size, depth and quickness, it’s tough to single out an individual for his accomplishments.
But to reach its potential, a team like that needs a floor general, someone who does the things that make everything come together.
For Springville’s 5A state championship-winning team in 2019-20, that was senior guard Paul Terry.
“He was our leader on the floor,” Red Devil head coach Justin Snell said in an interview earlier in the month. “He got the brunt of me, whether he wanted it or not, and he took it all. Without Paul, we are nowhere close to where we ended up.”
While Terry made key statistical contributions to Springville’s title run (11.4 points per game, 5.4 assists per game, 1.3 steals per game), his most valuable asset was his ability to keep the Red Devils headed in the right direction.
“We had a great team,” Terry said. “Everyone stepped up and everyone showed leadership. I just always wanted to make sure that we all stayed positive. When things got hard, I tried to assure everyone that we were going to be OK. I just did my best to keep everyone going.”
For his critical role in leading Springville back to the top of the 5A basketball ranks, the Daily Herald is pleased to honor Terry as the 2019-20 Utah Valley Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
“It feels so rewarding,” Terry said. “Basketball is what I’ve loved my whole life, so to get some recognition feels good.”
One of the remarkable things about Terry is how he adapted his game during the season.
“We had a conversation at his house after a game against Salem Hills,” Snell said. “I think that was a big deal for us. We lost that game and he was distraught. I sent him a text at 11 p.m. asking what he was doing. He had just got home and I went over there. We talked for an hour about his role and how important it was. That was a changing moment in the season. It was always about getting him to shift his mindset from being a true point guard to being a basketball player, which this group needed. There were times where we needed him to score 20 points and there were times when he didn’t need to. He had to find where that happened.”
Snell pointed to the state tournament game against Bountiful as an example of where Terry had to be more selfish offensively.
“He was our mismatch and we went to him all game long,” Snell said. “He scored 20 points but still got eight assists. It was tough for him to find the right balance. It’s just a process but he did great during the playoffs.”
Beyond the decision to score or develop the offense, Terry also took on an enormous psychological role for Springville.
“Whenever we got behind or when another team went on a roll, we made sure that we didn’t get down or got too emotional,” Terry said. “We just kept playing our game and things would eventually go our way. There were some times in the season that I felt I had to make sure we didn’t freak out to much when things weren’t going our way. I think it pays off when everyone can take a deep breath and know that things will work out.”
It wasn’t always easy to do. One of the toughest moments was when Springville trailed Woods Cross by double digits in the fourth quarter of their 5A semifinal battle.
“When you get in that moment, it’s hard to not in your own head that it was a good year but the season ended,” Terry said. “During that game, I was thinking that I couldn’t believe my career had come to an end. But you’ve just got to pretend that things are going good. You tell your teammates that everything is good and we’re going to win, even if you aren’t believing it. When I look back, I think our attitude was key. I still can’t believe we won.”
Snell said Terry’s determination to keep the team balanced emotionally was an enormous asset all season.
“It was a big deal,” Snell said. “You have a kid in Paul’s situation who put everything into basketball. He knew how good we could be and put in the time to be good. He was never up or down. That irritated me most of the year because I wanted more enthusiasm but that’s just not who he is. To be honest, it was probably better because that allowed everyone to take a breath and then continue to play.”
All of the elements Terry brought to the Red Devil squad were big for Springville to make it back to the top.
“I feel so lucky that things ended that way,” Terry said. “Not everyone gets to have their career end that way. I feel grateful that I could be on this team with these guys. It was superrewarding.”
The championship win also allowed Snell to atone for what he called his “greatest regret in coaching.”
“When he was a freshman with Cooper Riggs, Austin Mortensen and Payton Murphy, three of the four I pulled up for the state tournament — and Paul I didn’t,” Snell said. “The other three got to enjoy the ride and get the ring since we won the title but Paul didn’t. Right after the season was over, he was in the gym and he’s done that every day for the rest of his basketball career. Every day I was looking at him, thinking that I screwed that up. What was going through my mind at state this year was that I had to get him a ring because he deserves one. He fixed it himself, which I’m thoroughly grateful for.”
Now that Terry has achieved the pinnacle of high school basketball, he’s turned his attention to the next steps in his life.
“I’m hoping I can go play somewhere,” Terry said. “I’m still figuring things out but I’m hoping to get to that level.”
He would like to improve his outside shooting and be more of an all-around player, but believes his strengths are ball-handling and being aggressive when he drives to the basket.
Terry says he also enjoys hanging with friends and family, pranking his two brothers and writing at school.
He said he had two pieces of advice for anyone getting ready for high school basketball.
“The first is cliche but you really do need to enjoy all of it because it goes by so fast,” Terry said. “Just enjoy it. There are going to be times that suck and you are frustrated but then there will be times when you are super-high. Take all the lessons you learn because it will stick with you. The other thing is if you want to go far, don’t be afraid to have big goals and work super-hard. It will eventually pay off and it will feel rewarding.”