“I love the competition, when the gym is full, when the game is on the line, and when the fans are all standing on their feet, I just love that feeling. The competiveness and high-pressure moments; I just love it,” says Marcus McKone, returning senior for Desert Hills. “I love everything about the game, it’s a lot of fun.”
To enjoy victory one must learn to understand and overcome defeat. Those moments are sometimes the most difficult to endure; however, when the seconds count down and the pressure builds, true character is borne.
Extending games into overtime, in any sport, can certainly add stress; and going on into double-overtime understandably piles on even more pressure. But what is it like taking things a step further and venturing into playing a triple-overtime game? A quadruple-overtime?! While athletes may find themselves in uncharted territory, it is these games people talk about for a long time, no matter the outcome. Such a situation is exactly where Marcus and his Desert Hills Thunder teammates found themselves last season in the state semi-final game against Dixie.
With the Desert Hill’s leading scorer, senior Quincy Mathews, fouling out with just over a minute to go in double-overtime, the pressure quickly mounted. Yet through the triple-overtime, Marcus and the rest of the Thunder showed they would not go down without a fight. “It was tough losing Quincy,” Marcus recalls, “he was ‘The Man’ and everyone knew it. It was hard but we had to step up even more if we were going to be able to win it. Then with Tanner Leishman fouling out too, it was going to be a tough game.”
“Varsity basketball is a whole different kind of game compared to playing junior varsity or sophomore. It’s way more intense.”
Determination was high for this athlete, who was then a junior. Coming off a screen, Marcus would hit a 3-pointer to bring his team within 1 point of the Flyers within the final minutes of the game. After what Marcus described as “…a great game that I was able to do so well in,” he shares, “Every time I hit a shot, I was not really thinking about anything really. It was nothing new to me because I had practiced those shots and situations so hard and for so long. My team and I really felt that we could do it and take state.”
Yet despite the Thunder’s best efforts, leaving everything out on the court as they had been taught all season, Marcus and his fellow teammates would eventually come up short in a nail-biting quadruple-overtime; and their season would come to a close.
“That game was amazing,“ recalls Marcus’ mother Kim.
Sitting court-side at the state semi-finals, Kim, who played basketball herself for DSU, knew what her son was going through. “As a mom, it was amazing because I have watched him all these years and this was it. He was doing everything he had practiced, everything he knew. To watch the team come together and continue to fight even after losing Quincy and Tanner, it was awesome. Having played before, when it was all over, I just knew what kind of devastation that came after a loss like that, all of the emotion. That is a game that everyone will continue to talk about.”
Coaching is always key to achieving a high level of success, and Marcus knows that what he has learned from his coaches will play a vital role in his life as he moves forward. “During those time-outs at state, Coach Turley would let us know that we needed to stay focused, to play smart, and play to our strengths. And when it’s all over you know you’ve played the very best you can.”
Moving into a leadership role as a returning senior for the Desert Hills Thunder, Marcus understands the responsibility that comes with the experience. “Varsity basketball is a whole different kind of game compared to playing junior varsity or sophomore. It’s way more intense. I learned that real fast my first game. So I know I can help the guys coming in to make that transition and feel like part of the team.”
Marcus approaches his next and final season as a member of the Thunder squad with great optimism. “I know because we lost so many seniors to graduation that people already expect that we will not be that good this year, but I know that is not the case at all. We have so many great players like Simister, Fuchs and Jones, and each of us gets along with the younger guys stepping up this year, which helps us stay close as a team. That will definitely help us big-time this season.”
With a loving and supportive mother, a set of dedicated coaches (who have assisted Marcus throughout his career), and his grandfather Mike (who he considers his greatest mentor), Marcus has developed a confidence in his ability.
“His dedication, goals, drive, and willingness to put in the work to maintain that competitive edge is something that Marcus certainly takes pride in.” Says Kim, “I love watching him. He has a cool confidence and it is fun to see.”
“When it’s all over I hope the guys remember my love for the game and how hard I worked; to remember that we never gave up and we worked hard throughout the season.“
His daily ritual after practice is over is to make sure he does not leave the floor without making 100 or more free throws. “If I am going to succeed at anything in life I have to be willing to compete and work for it. You cannot expect to not work hard and be amazing. Attacking your weaknesses and making them strengths is important. You always have to work hard and not take anything for granted.”
As for how Marcus plans to close out his final season as a member of the Thunder, “When it’s all over I hope the guys remember my love for the game and how hard I worked; to remember that we never gave up and we worked hard throughout the season. I know what a big loss feels like, and I am going to go even harder this year and do everything I can to never feel like that again.” • HSSI