By Mario Izarraga
Photos by Jackie Hicken
What started off as hanging out with friends and killing time soon turned into a passion that awakened the competitive nature of Mountain View High School basketball player Kedrick Clayton.
Clayton’s love for the game and his dedication to it says a lot about who he is as a person, and about his constant reaching for his personal best.
“I was brought to love basketball because of my competitive nature, the fun I have playing with friends and the joy I get when I play,” Clayton said.
When a young athlete is asked about his motivation, most might just say that playing a sport in high school is fun, as is going out to put on a show for all his peers and enjoying high school, but Clayton is driven by something else.
“I’m constantly motivated to improve myself and to grow as a person and player,” Clayton said.
For him, basketball is a springboard for that growth. His future plans include going on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and then possibly playing college ball, or just going to school, depending on what future opportunities open for him.
Most players want to be great but do not put in the effort or time. In contrast, Clayton is someone who is always working hard, training longer and giving it his all. Over the years, he learned that if he wanted to be successful on the court, he’d have to be willing to change.
“I had a strict shooting workout that changed my shooting percentage tremendously,” Clayton said.
For Clayton, the road to success started in the gym, where he would spend an extra hour or more after practice daily completing a strict intense physical workout. The workout included shooting 20 three-pointers, 10 shots from the key on the left and right, and catching the ball at half court and running and shooting five times, doing this from five different spots on the court each day. To end his workout, when he was already tired from practice and his extra workout, he would also shoot 100 free throws.
“The athlete I turned into was a result of a love for the game, hard work and determination,” he said.
No path to greatness is easy, though. Every path has different obstacles, and pushing his body to the limits had consequences that forced Clayton to power learn and grow.
“The biggest challenge I faced in basketball was a very bad back injury that limited me for a long time,” Clayton said. “But I learned to alter my game because of the injury and turned it into something positive.”
Back injuries are hard to come back from. After such an injury, most athletes cannot return to performing at the same high level of playing, but this was not the case with Clayton.
His injury and other challenges on the court taught Clayton that his endurance level was higher than he would have imagined, simply because of “how bad I want to be great.”
Besides overcoming injuries, Clayton said that every team has difficult teammates and that not every team gets along perfectly, but that such challenges open the way to “show extra love” for those individuals as they talk through challenges
Many of the seven seniors on Mountain View High School’s 2016-2017 boys basketball team had played together for years and Clayton looked back at their time on the court together with fondness, saying, “I love my teammates so much.”
Although Mountain View didn’t make the state tournament this year – tough for a team that fought its way through multiple ups and downs during the season – a special team is one that can come together when needed, whether that be taking down a cross-town rival or beating a top-ranked team.
“Upsetting the No. 1 seed in the state or beating our rival Orem High School – those are my best high school memories,” Clayton said. “I had the game-winning free throws against our rivals in overtime as well as big shots leading up to that. It was a battle the whole game in a crazy environment, and I loved it.”
In order to be great, an athlete needs to perform on the court. However, there are two parts to every great athlete, and the court is only half of that. If you can perform on the court, you can perform in the classroom.
Highlights from this last season for Clayton included being high up in the state with certain stats, receiving academic all-state, traveling to tournaments and creating lasting friendships with teammates and coaches. He really looks to his family as role models.
“My parents play an incredible part in my life,” Clayton said. “They are a large part of what I’ve become today and I couldn’t be more grateful for them. I look up to successful people especially my grandparents.”
Although his high school career has officially ended, for Clayton, the lessons he learned during his seasons at Mountain View have resulted in life lessons that apply on the court and off the court. From hard work to fighting through challenges, “basketball has taught me so many lessons that I will use throughout the remainder of my life,” he said.
Clayton had an amazing high school career with many ups and downs, but everything that happened to him turned him into the athlete and the person he is today. In passing along the wisdom he’s gained, he had a few words of advice for younger players and athletes:
“To younger athletes I would say, set goals,” Clayton said. “Find a plan to complete them and strictly follow that plan. Don’t be less than you potentially could be.”
Mountain View High senior Mario Izarraga wrote this story as part of the Preps Utah student journalism program, powered by Bank of American Fork, which will award two of our published student journalists college scholarships at the end of the school year. Mario is a senior who enjoys writing about sports, except for soccer. He comes from a family of three with a Hispanic background and he is graduating in May with plans to go to college and major in business and law enforcement.