In his Pyramid of Success, the legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden famously mapped out the building blocks of success, from the indispensible cornerstones to the capstone. In honor of Wooden and this week’s Mountain West Conference Tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center, we’ve created this “Mountain” featuring the MWC players who have best embodied the virtues of the Pyramid.
1. Competitive Greatness
Jimmer Fredette, senior guard, BYU
Sometimes the hype is true: Fredette is an inspirational leader and unstoppable scorer (27.9 points per game) who wants the ball in the clutch, takes losing personally, and is at his most brilliant when his brilliance is needed most.
Dorian Green, sophomore guard, Colorado State
It doesn’t show up in the statistics, but his teammates know it: Green is unflappable in tough situations, a trait that helped CSU put together a breakthrough season.
Has there ever been a Mountain West player who believed in himself more, and was so justified in that belief?
Andy Ogide, senior forward, Colorado State
Ogide (17 ppg and 7.6 rebounds per game) blossomed into a star this year, combining raw power and tirelessness to wear down opposing big men.
Dairese Gary, senior guard, New Mexico
A stellar ballhandler and superb floor general, Gary averaged 14.5 points per game, 5.5 assists (second in the MWC) and helped redeem what at times seemed a lost season for the Lobos.
6. Team Spirit
Pierce Hornung, sophomore forward, Colorado State
The MWC Sixth Man of the Year keeps a low profile in the box score, but his presence was indispensable for the surprising Rams.
Quintrell Thomas, sophomore forward, UNLV
For the first half of the season, Thomas couldn’t seem to blink without committing a foul. His playing time was limited, and Rebel fans grew frustrated with seeing the skilled big man on the bench. But Thomas remained patient, harnessed his aggression and blossomed into a formidable inside option for the Rebels.
Hank Thorns, junior guard, TCU
Ranked first in the conference in assists (7 per game), second in assist-to-turnover ratio and sixth in minutes played, the Las Vegas native never let his focus never stray during a down year for the Horned Frogs.
Tre’Von Willis, senior guard, UNLV
After a knee injury, a suspension and two months of lackluster play, Willis put the Rebels on his back in February and helped save the season (see story, page 32).
Malcolm Thomas, senior forward, San Diego State
Whether clearing the glass or rejecting shots Thomas (11.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.2 blocks per game) had an unerring instinct for the ball and a fierce relentlessness in pursuit of it.
Kawhi Leonard, sophomore forward, San Diego State
In any conference lacking a guy named Jimmer, Leonard (15.2 ppg, 10.8 rpg) would probably be player of the year. He was fantastic as a freshman; after an offseason working on his game, he came back even better. A prodigiously gifted player willing to do what it takes to maximize his gifts.
Noah Hartsock, junior forward, BYU
On a team dominated by a transcendent star, relationships are crucial to success. Hartsock—always ready with a joke and a smile off the court but physical and unrelenting on it—helped the Cougars forge a fierce us-against-the-world unity.
D.J. Gay, senior guard, San Diego State
In the national conversation, San Diego State was all about its bruising frontline featuring Leonard, Thomas and Billy White. But it was Gay—the league leader in assist-to-turnover ratio—who held a star-studded squad together with his patience, skill and commitment to his teammates.
Anthony Marshall, sophomore guard, UNLV
In midseason, it sometimes seemed like Marshall was a finely tuned sports car trapped in the Rebels’ old jalopy of an offense. But he never gave in to the temptation to freelance. His faith in his teammates has paid off with the Rebels’ late-season surge.
Jackson Emery, senior guard, BYU
BYU may be all about self-control, but that doesn’t imply some sort of Vulcan detachment. Emery was a live wire on the court, with a catalog of facial expressions rivaled only by Fredette (and, of course, by Cougar legend Danny Ainge). The MWC Defensive Player of the Year haunted rival ballhandlers, led the league in steals and played every moment with conviction. He was also second in the league behind Fredette in three-point shooting percentage. What’s more, he’s really slow at replacing a contact lens.