LAYTON — Just about every time Ethan Potter got the ball in the post, two defenders were there. Or three.
Maybe the other team emphasized help-side defense whenever he posted up or was about to get the ball. Maybe it was a zone defense designed to easily put two defenders on the tall Layton High senior post player.
Whatever it was, it happened pretty much every night.
“I think it was a little bit harder getting used to at first, but more and more as the second half of region got along it kind of got easier by finding ways to get my teammates open,” Potter said.
Most nights, he faced a straight-up double team or a variation of it, and yet opposing defenses found that nothing that truly worked against him.
Potter averaged 25 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game, shot 59.5% from the field (65.5% on 2-pointers) and 73.7% from the foul line this season, helping the Lancers to a 15-8 record, a second-place finish in Region 1 and a first-round playoff win against West.
He hit a season-high of 39 points on Dec. 22 against Skyridge, and a season-high 20 rebounds twice against Syracuse and Northridge in February.
Potter’s senior year was consistent just like his junior (22.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 60.7 FG%) and sophomore (16.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 50 FG%) years, but this season’s sheer productivity and impact on the game earned him 2021 Standard-Examiner Boys Basketball All-Area MVP honors.
Potter made his nightly double-double look easy, but the stress and physicality took a toll.
“There were a few times during the season I’d go into a chiropractor and ... loosen up my body, and I think that really helped because it was kind of hard for a little bit having to play all 32 minutes every single game a couple times a week,” he said.
Just about everyone, including Potter, figured he’d be the region’s best player this season and a nightly challenge for opposing defenses. This year, Potter said he wanted to be a better leader.
“I feel like I really improved myself in that aspect of the game, a lot from last year. It’s not all on the basketball court. Yeah, you can pick guys up and tell them that they’re all good and to keep competing, a lot of it is off the court, making time for the other guys and making sure they’re doing alright,” Potter said.
Over the years, if one spoke to Potter or interviewed him after he had a really good game, the first thing he’d say would be something along the lines of crediting his teammates for his success.
Layton head coach Kelby Miller said that’s just how Potter operated day to day.
“Really down to earth, humble, pleasure to coach. It’s always a good thing when you can get on your best player, when you can coach your best player and not worry about having any attitude back,” Miller said. “Just on the court great that way, off the court just a great young man, we’re fortunate enough to have had him in the program for four years.”
Potter wasn’t always a post player, he said. In junior high, a coach at South Ogden’s Complete Shooters named Kirk Miles would only let Potter, who at the time was playing mostly outside, play inside during games.
“He’s how I really have gotten to be as good as I have in the post game because I had never played in the post before,” Potter said.
Potter said it’s how he developed in the post so fast, and he continued to train with Miles a little bit in high school. His ninth-grade year, Potter played on Layton’s JV team primarily and saw a handful of varsity minutes in garbage time.
By his sophomore year, he was staying after practice to get shots up and taking the weight room more seriously, Miller said.
“He’s always just a super competitive kid with drills in practice, scrimmages in practice. He was always the type of kid that wanted to win and was willing to do whatever it took to help his team and his group to do whatever it was to be successful,” Miller said.
Over Potter’s last two years as a starter, the Lancers went 36-11 overall and 24-4 in region games.
They were one win away in both 2020 and 2021 from a share of the Region 1 championship. Layton played in the state semifinals in 2020 at the Huntsman Center, losing to eventual state champion Fremont.
In the end, there were no trophies to be had for Potter and company, who consistently had really good teams that were a game here and a game there away from the top.
“I don’t have any regrets at all. I feel like I always worked my hardest and so did all my teammates. It didn’t end the way I wanted it to, but I don’t have any regrets about it or anything,” he said.
In September, Potter verbally committed to Utah Valley’s men’s basketball team, where he intends to play starting in the 2023-24 season after serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I think that was also a huge factor for the success I had this year, just having one less thing to worry about this year,” he said.
Miller agreed with that sentiment.
“I know for a lot of kids that are in that situation, that’s a big-time weight on their shoulders and I think just getting it out of the way going into the season was a relief for him, his parents and his family in general,” Miller said.
Potter committed three months before the Lancers took the floor and officially signed with the Wolverines in November.
He’s still 100% on board with UVU, as there’s the added bonus of playing for the Wolverines with his older brother Chase, who was a freshman at UVU this year and graduated from LHS in 2018.
Ethan Potter said he’s excited at the prospect of playing college basketball and hopes it turns out well for him. If his career at UVU turns into a nightly double team against him in the post, then that can only be seen as a good thing down the road.